S'porean car-plunge widow gets $2.9m

S'porean car-plunge widow gets $2.9m

A Singaporean woman who witnessed her husband reverse his car over the edge of a second-storey carpark in Sydney and plunge to his death has been awarded A$2.6 million (S$2.9 million) in damages, an Australian newspaper reported yesterday.

In March 2006, Michelle Lee was with her husband, Thomas Lee, then 34, at the carpark in the Carlton Crest Hotel (Sydney), in the city's Haymarket area.

She alighted first, before her husband reversed the vehicle into a parking space, driving at no more than 5kmh. The car hit a metal barrier, which gave way. With nothing to stop it, the car fell off the edge of the building and crashed to the ground. Mr Lee was later pronounced dead.

Mrs Lee, now 41, sued Carlton Crest and the City of Sydney Council for negligence and for the nervous shock she suffered witnessing her husband's death.

Justice Robert Beech-Jones yesterday awarded her just over A$2.6 million in damages during a brief New South Wales Supreme Court hearing, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The payment will be split, with 75 per cent paid by the carpark operator and the rest by the City of Sydney, the report said. The parties will return to the court on Thursday to argue costs.

During an earlier hearing, Justice Beech-Jones said that, apart from losing out on "significant economic benefits of the marriage", he found that the incident had caused "an almost complete psychological collapse affecting every part of her life, including her promising career as a speech pathologist".

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the NSW Supreme Court found that, as the owner and operator of the carpark, Carlton was negligent because it was aware of numerous problems resulting from poor construction and maintenance of the concrete wheel stops and metal perimeter railing.

The City of Sydney Council was also found negligent for certifying the carpark for commercial use because the railing, which was used as edge protection, failed to comply with Australian standards.

The court had heard that the couple got married in 2000, when both were 27, and were based in Sydney.

Mrs Lee, who grew up in Singapore and worked here for four years as a special-education teacher, had studied speech therapy in Australia.

Her late husband was a former Straits Times journalist and had been working with Sydney Ports as a systems analyst. Both were National University of Singapore graduates. She also holds a diploma from Nanyang Technological University.

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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