Worker, doctor seek damages over alleged dog attacks in first such civil suits to land in court

Lawyers say they expect to see more of such disputes as more people own pets, but added that these are usually settled out of court without admission of liability. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: UNSPLASH

SINGAPORE - The courts are set to decide who is to blame in the first two reported civil lawsuits involving alleged dog attacks on a general worker and a doctor in separate incidents.

In the first case, a personal mobility device (PMD) rider who fell onto the road after being allegedly chased by two dogs that had come out from industrial premises is seeking damages for a knee fracture and other injuries.

General worker Hoque Am dadul, a Bangladeshi who was then 34, claimed that two unleashed dogs from Yi Pek Engineering in Woodlands Industrial Park suddenly chased him when he rode past its premises around 7am on Feb 16, 2019.

He was startled and tried to flee, but lost control of his PMD and landed heavily on his knee. He was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital where he underwent surgery on his right knee and was given 220 days of medical leave.

Mr Hoque, who has since returned to Bangladesh, is alleging that Yi Pek Engineering was negligent as it had failed to keep the two dogs leashed and ensure they were kept within the premises at all times.

Through Hoh Law Corporation lawyer N. Srinivasan, Mr Hoque is seeking damages in the State Courts for loss of earnings, medical costs and pain suffered, among other things.

Yi Pek Engineering denied the claims in court papers filed and said its two dogs did not leave the premises then. It added that there were stray dogs in the industrial area that may have loitered outside its premises from time to time.

The company, defended by lawyer David Ling from Ling Das & Partners, added that even if the court finds that the dogs did run out of the premises to chase Mr Hoque, the accident was partly or wholly due to his own negligence as he had failed to properly manage the PMD he rode, among other things.

Court hearings over three days were held late last year and last month before District Judge Allen Ng, with Mr Hoque testifying via Zoom from Bangladesh. Judgment on liability is due, pending further submissions from both parties.

In a second unrelated case, a woman was allegedly attacked by two dogs on Nov 1, 2020, outside her house, as she was about to walk her Japanese spitz in Sembawang Hills Estate.

Dr Joanne Lim had thumb and limb injuries, which resulted in her being hospitalised for four days and having to undergo two operations. Her pet spitz also received vet treatment.

She is seeking damages for medical treatment, loss of earnings and other costs, claiming negligence against the handler of the two dogs.

In court papers filed by lawyer Foo Soon Yien from BR Law Corporation, Dr Lim said the handler of the golden retriever and the rough collie that injured her and her Japanese spitz had failed to securely hold on to the dogs' leashes or reasonably control the dogs.

The dogs' handler, Mr Nigel Foo - represented by Drew & Napier lawyer See Chern Yang - denied that the dogs had attacked Dr Lim.

According to defence papers, Mr Foo was squatting at the time to pick up droppings, with the leashes of both dogs hooked around his arms. But the golden retriever tugged in a bid to run towards the spitz, which was 30m away. Mr Foo slipped and fell. The leash slipped from him and the golden retriever ran away.

Mr Foo dashed to separate the dogs, but the leash of the second dog also slipped out of his hand.

Both parties managed to split and restrain the dogs, and Dr Lim later ran back home with her pet.

Mr Foo said he had taken all reasonable care in the management and control of his dogs, and the injuries caused were not foreseeable. A three-day hearing in the State Courts is due in April.

Lawyers say they expect to see more of such disputes as more people own pets, but added that these are usually settled out of court without admission of liability.

Clifford Law partner Viviene Sandhu said: "They involve some split-second situations and can be about dogs biting other dogs or rushing to passers-by, scaring them and causing them to trip and fall. This occurs in parks or when the owner opens the gate in a landed property, and sometimes in HDB estates' corridors."

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