SINGAPORE - A cyclist who fell and was injured after the front wheel of his bicycle got caught in a drain grating is seeking at least $578,000 in damages in a negligence suit against national water agency PUB.
A three-day hearing to determine the issue of liability opened in the High Court on Tuesday. If PUB is found to be liable, a separate hearing will be held to assess the quantum of damages.
Myanmar national Maung Maung Aung Soe Thu, 42, who now has a limp and uses a walking stick, contended that PUB breached the duty of care it owed him by failing to ensure that drain gratings along the road are safe for road users.
PUB denied that it was negligent and argued that it did not owe him such a duty of care.
Citing the legal test for establishing duty of care, PUB argued that it is not factually foreseeable that a failure to inspect, maintain or replace the gratings would have resulted in the harm he suffered.
PUB said the probability of a cyclist suffering moderate to serious injury from an accident involving a drain grating was 0.00001 per cent on an annual basis, and noted that the gap he cycled into was only 3cm.
The costs of inspecting more than a million gratings, measuring the gaps and replacing affected gratings would be astronomical in contrast, said PUB.
Mr Maung Maung, who was working here as a senior engineering assistant at the time, was cycling with a friend along Changi Point Coastal Walk on Jan 16 last year when the accident happened.
He suffered head and spine injuries, facial bone fractures and multiple face and lip abrasions.
In his affidavit, he said there were dried leaves along the side of the road which obscured his view of the gap.
On Tuesday, when he took the stand, he said through an interpreter that he did not see the grating because he had turned his head to check for traffic.
His lawyer, Mr Richard Tan, said in his opening statement that PUB's negligence in the construction, installation and management of the drain caused or contributed to the accident.
Mr Tan argued that PUB failed to ensure safety because the gaps in the grating were parallel to the road and not uniform.
He contended that PUB should be held fully liable for the accident.
PUB's lawyers, Mr K. Anparasan and Ms Grace Tan, said in their opening statement that the agency has not received any complaints about the gratings along that road since they were constructed by the Land Transport Authority in 2000.
In the 10 years since 2012, PUB has records of 12 verified incidents involving members of the public being injured due to drain gratings, including the present accident.
Five of the accidents involved cyclists, but apart from the plaintiff, the other four suffered relatively minor injuries.
PUB's lawyers argued that policy considerations negated any duty of care on the part of PUB.
They argued that even if the court found that PUB had breached any duty of care owed to the plaintiff, he had been contributorily negligent by choosing to cycle on the road instead of the park connector parallel to the road.
If PUB is held liable for the accident, its functions as a statutory board will be curtailed because it will now have to "undertake the mammoth task" of inspecting and replacing more than one million gratings, they added.
The trial continues.