Woman suing PUB over fall accused of faking mental illness

The lawyer defending national water agency PUB against a lawsuit from a woman who fell into an open manhole five years ago accused her of faking her mental illness yesterday in an ongoing trial.

Mr K. Anparasan made the contention after noting that while Madam Chan Hui Peng, 47, was warded at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in July, she had the presence of mind to ask for her mobile phone to liaise with her lawyers about the case.

He also said she was able to make arrangements for the annual returns of the family company to be filed with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra).

Madam Chan, a chartered accountant, fell into a 1.8m-deep manhole on Dec 1, 2015, while she was walking on a footpath in Simon Road near Kovan.

She is seeking about $5 million in damages, alleging that the accident caused her to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia, in addition to a fractured ankle.

Between June 29 and July 25 this year, she was forcibly warded at the IMH after she threw a bamboo pole out of the window following an argument with her husband, who she said was possessed.

Mr Anparasan, who acts for PUB's insurers, referred to clinical notes to point out that she was lucid enough to ask for her phone on July 16.

But Madam Chan told the court: "I've been inside for three weeks without contacting a soul outside, my lawyers are looking desperately for me."

She said she was allowed to use her phone only under staff supervision, to retrieve contact details.

Madam Chan said her husband had used her phone to send text messages to a company director regarding the Acra filing. She also pointed out that the clinical notes showed that when she was warded, she did not think she had schizophrenia. "I thought I was well but the doctors thought I was not and they did not want to let me go home," she said.

Mr Anparasan also referred to notes from Sengkang General Hospital when he told the court that Madam Chan had impersonated her mother in a phone conversation with hospital officials last year.

The officials had called her home number to talk to her mother, but the call was redirected to Madam Chan's mobile phone. Madam Chan told the officials she was against sending "her daughter" to IMH and preferred her to see her own private psychiatrist.

Confronted about this yesterday, Madam Chan said she could not remember. "When I'm in psychosis, I do not know what is real and not real."

Mr Anparasan said it was a "convenient excuse".

The trial continues.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2020, with the headline 'Woman suing PUB over fall accused of faking mental illness'. Print Edition | Subscribe