Woman who sued PUB after falling into manhole accused of faking mental illness

Madam Chan Hui Peng is seeking about $5 million in damages. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - 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 on Tuesday (Nov 24) in the 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 lawsuit.

He also noted that Madam Chan was lucid enough to make arrangements for the filing of the family company's annual returns to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra).

Madam Chan, a chartered accountant, who fell into a 1.8m-deep manhole while she was walking on a footpath in Simon Road near Kovan, is seeking about $5 million in damages.

She alleges that the accident caused her to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 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 IMH clinical notes to point out that Madam Chan was lucid enough to ask for her mobile phone on July 16.

But she 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 only allowed to use her phone under staff supervision to retrieve contact details.

Madam Chan said it was her husband who had used her phone to send text messages to a director of the company 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 in 2019.

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, pretending to be her mother, then told the officials that she was against sending "her daughter" to IMH and preferred the patient to see her own private psychiatrist.

Confronted on this on Tuesday, Madam Chan said she could not remember.

"When I'm in psychosis, I do not know what is real and not real," she said.

Mr Anparasan replied that it was a "convenient excuse".

He also alleged that Madam Chan planned to launch a lawsuit against PUB soon after the accident.

He referred to a letter dated Dec 9, 2015 - eight days after the accident - that her MP, Ms Sylvia Lim, had sent to PUB asking the agency to review their work procedures. The letter stated that Madam Chan was claiming compensation.

The manhole Madam Chan Hui Peng fell into. PHOTO: ST FILE
Madam Chan was diagnosed with trauma, and bruises on her hip and and an ankle fracture. PHOTO: COURTESY OF CHAN HUI PENG

Madam Chan said: "I don't think I have the mental capacity to do so many things. My foot was in a cast."

Mr Anparasan said: "But your mind is working."

The trial continues.

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