Court dismisses appeal over liability in former construction worker's mishap

Bangladeshi worker Janaed (on bed) had suffered severe injuries from a 3m-high fall in November 2018. PHOTO: JAHID FAMILY

SINGAPORE - Former construction worker Janaed, who was paralysed after a 3.7m-high fall at a worksite in 2018, can proceed to have damages jointly payable by two defendants to be assessed.

The Appellate Division of the High Court last week dismissed the appeal by Westgate Tower's subsidiary management corporation (MCST) over its joint 70 per cent liability with subcontractor STA Rita Engineering Services for the negligence that caused the mishap.

Mr Janaed, who also appealed, failed to reduce the High Court's finding in August last year that he was 30 per cent to blame.

"We are not persuaded that the judge's apportionment of liability between Janaed and MCST/STA was against the weight of the evidence or was plainly wrong," wrote Justice Chua Lee Ming on behalf of the appeal panel comprising Judges of the Appellate Division Woo Bih Li and Quentin Loh, and Justice Chua.

The judgment means the total sum payable to Mr Janaed for loss of earnings, medical treatment, pain and suffering, and other costs after assessment will be discounted by 30 per cent to factor in his contributory negligence.

The Bangladeshi, who goes by one name, suffered severe spinal injuries after he fell while inspecting an overhead chiller in the mechanical and electrical room at Westgate Tower in Jurong East on Nov 8, 2018.

Mr Janaed, who is now 46, was warded at National University Hospital and Alexandra Hospital before returning to Bangladesh.

He had been engaged by STA Rita Engineering, an air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation services company, for the work at Westgate Tower.

Represented by Hoh Law Corporation lawyer N. Srinivasan, he sued four parties in the High Court for negligence

His formal employer Newtec Engineering; Mr Felizardo Paras Jose, the owner of STA Rita Engineering Services; the MCST responsible for the maintenance of Westgate Tower; and the main contractor hired to do air-conditioning and ventilation works for Westgate Tower, Zoe International.

Zoe International had sub-contracted part or all of its work to STA Rita Engineering.

Newtec Engineering failed to appear for the case and Mr Janaed subsequently entered a default judgment against the company.

Last August, the High Court, after having heard the case over seven days, found the MCST together with STA Rita Engineering 70 per cent to blame for the accident, while Mr Janaed was 30 per cent to blame.

Then Judicial Commissioner S. Mohan found that Zoe International was not negligent in the case.

The MCST, represented by lawyers Michael Eu and Alicia Chia, appealed the case, arguing it was not liable to Mr Janaed or alternatively, that Zoe International had caused or contributed to the accident. It also claimed Mr Janaed was 50 per cent to blame for the mishap.

Lawyer Peter Ong Lip Cheng appeared for Zoe International at the appeal.

In rejecting the MCST's appeal, the court said it could have provided a mobile elevated work platform, which it noted that the MCST has since acquired.

The platform is one of the fall prevention systems under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

The court was also not convinced that it should reduce Mr Janaed's 30 per cent liability.

A separate lawsuit filed by his brother Jahid, 42, is ongoing.

Mr Jahid, who is in Bangladesh, now depends on a wheelchair after he allegedly fell about 4m from a ladder on April 7, 2018, while doing air-conditioning maintenance work at the Starbucks outlet in United Square mall.

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