Parents get $203,000 in damages over son's death

Judge addresses issue of whether passenger should also be liable in motorcycle accident

The parents of a pillion passenger who died in a motorcycle accident along the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) were awarded some $203,000 in damages in the State Courts - one of highest reported sums awarded there.

Mr Edil Asyraff Supa'at's parents sued their son's childhood friend, Mr Nur Azhar Sulaiman, in 2013 ,after an accident five years earlier. Mr Nur Azhar was the motorcyclist.

Deputy Registrar Georgina Lum noted in judgment grounds released last week that Mr Edil's parents, aged 75 and 68, had testified that their son, then 26, was a filial child who had consistently supported them with his earnings as a chef.

The sums were awarded for pre- and post-trial dependency losses for the couple, as well as funeral and bereavement expenses for their son, following assessment hearings held last year.

The sum was computed on the grounds that Mr Nur Azhar was found 100 per cent to blame for the accident, at a separate court hearing in 2015 on liability.

  • 100%

  • Percentage blame for the accident for Mr Nur Azhar, at a court hearing on liability in 2015.

  • 50%

  • Percentage by which damages payable should come down, as argued by lawyer Cecilia Hendrick for Mr Nur Azhar.

The case had raised a landmark point not previously decided here: Should a passenger also share the blame if he agrees to risk a ride from someone he knew was drink driving?

Mr Edil and Mr Nur Azhar - then 26 and a flight steward - had been friends since their teens and lived near each other.

They met and drank alcohol at about 12.30am on June 27, 2010 at Bras Basah Complex, then went dancing and had supper.

They did not consume any more alcohol at supper.

Mr Nur Azhar headed home at 5am, with Mr Edil riding pillion.

About half an hour later, the motorcycle hit the railing along a slip road that led from the PIE into the Bukit Timah Expressway.

Mr Edil was flung off and died of multiple injuries at the scene.

Mr Nur Azhar was hurt and was taken to hospital unconscious.

He later pleaded guilty to causing death by a negligent act, and was jailed for two weeks and disqualified from driving for five years.

Mr Nur Azhar also pleaded guilty to a second charge of riding the motorcycle when the level of alcohol in his blood exceeded the limit of 80mg per 100ml by at least 3mg.

The dead man had a similar blood alcohol content.

Ms Cecilia Hendrick, lawyer for Mr Nur Azhar, argued that - knowing they had earlier consumed alcohol, Mr Edil had risked death or injury in agreeing to ride pillion with Mr Nur Azhar, and damages payable should come down by 50 per cent.

In 2015, District Judge Loo Ngan Chor, in judgment grounds, found that Mr Nur Azhar's ability to manage and control the motorcycle was not impaired by his drinking of several hours before. "Neither would the deceased have thought so."

He made clear that there is a "serious need to deprecate drink driving" and that effective law enforcement and prosecution are ways to show "our displeasure" at drink driving.

"But I did not think it right to reduce the compensation payable to the deceased's estate only because he had had a drink with the defendant, even though this in no way caused the subsequent and tragic mishap.

"In these circumstances, I was not prepared to assign any contribution against the deceased," said Judge Loo, in ordering 100 per cent liability against Nur Azhar.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'Parents get $203,000 in damages over son's death'. Print Edition | Subscribe