Firm to blame for visitor's injuries

A district judge held a company was completely to blame for the injuries suffered by a visitor when a display panel fell on her.

The judge found the 2m-tall display panel was not placed in a secure manner, so that even a slight force from the victim - Madam Ong Siew Hong, 72 - could easily have caused the panel to fall on her.

At the hearing in June, District Judge Lee Li Choon said Soon Bee Huat Trading has breached the duty of care owed to patrons on its premises, in particular Madam Ong.

"The defendant company has not placed the display panel in such manner that it would not be reasonably foreseeable for the display unit to fall on her," said the judge.

The company has since adopted the recommendation of a workplace safety specialist to secure the display panels with a stand support at the bottom and a bracket and screw system at the upper portion, said District Judge Lee.

Madam Ong had sued the company in the State Courts for negligence, seeking damages for injuries she suffered.

Together with her son and daughter, she had visited its showroom in Toh Guan Road East on July 17, 2015 to browse for renovation materials when the mishap occurred.

The display panel that fell on Madam Ong Siew Hong, in a photo taken by her son Elton Png on the day of the accident on the company's premises. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ELTON PNG

The 55.4kg display panel fell on her as she walked past it on the second floor of the showroom. It caused her to fall face down and she sustained injuries to her chin, elbows and hip. She was taken by ambulance and warded for eight days at Singapore General Hospital.

The panel had been placed directly on the bare floor at an angle and was supported by a display shelf of tile materials.

Madam Ong, represented by lawyer Margaret Neo, denied she touched the panel before the incident. Besides the injuries, she suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lawyer Daljit Kaur, defending the firm, argued that the injuries suffered by Madam Ong could not be because of the panel falling on her.

But District Judge Lee found no evidence that her injuries could not have been caused by the falling panel, dismissing defence claims that the injuries were not consistent with the panel's weight and size.

The judge also found the accounts given by her children to be consistent and corroborated with Madam Ong's account.

The company was found to be 100 per cent liable for the injuries caused to Madam Ong with damages payable to be assessed separately by a court registrar. The company is appealing the decision.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2017, with the headline 'Firm to blame for visitor's injuries'. Subscribe