A Thai teenager who lost her legs in a train accident has lost an appeal against an earlier court decision that found rail operator SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) not at fault for her injuries.
Yesterday, the Court of Appeal dismissed 18-year-old Nitcharee Peneakchanasak's claim that SMRT and LTA had been negligent for failing to ensure the safety of commuters at Ang Mo Kio MRT station, where a train had run over the teen's legs after she fell onto the track in 2011.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who made up the court with Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang, called the accident a "deeply tragic misfortune".
The Chief Justice said that Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy's 82-page written judgment in January showed that he had carefully analysed the circumstances and was correct in his conclusion.
Citing Justice Vinodh's judgment, the Chief Justice said "the law does not require the defendant to take every step and to expend every conceivable resource to eliminate every risk in the name of safety".
Lawyer Peter Low, who represented Nitcharee in her appeal, argued that the chances of someone accidentally falling onto the track was a foreseeable risk on the minds of the defendants.
And such risk was eliminated after half-height platform screen doors were installed after the accident, he added.
His claims were dismissed by Justice Phang, who said absolute safety standards were impossible in an "imperfect world".
Nitcharee, who was suing through her father Kittanesh Peneakchanasak, had lost her claim of $3.4 million in damages in the High Court in January. She was ordered to bear the costs of the trial, including the defendants' lawyer fees and the fees of expert witnesses who testified during the 12-day trial in 2012.
Yesterday, the defendants' lawyer, Mr K. Anparasan of KhattarWong, said his clients would not be pursuing the costs "out of compassion, sympathy and goodwill". He estimated the costs, including that of the Court of Appeal hearing, could come close to $400,000.
In July, Nitcharee, who had prosthetic legs fitted in Bangkok after the accident, met representatives from SMRT and LTA for a mediation session, accompanied by her father and Singaporean guardian Christopher Bek.
Despite losing the lawsuit, the teenager was offered $50,000, said Mr Bek. But Nitcharee decided to go ahead with her appeal.
Speaking to the media outside the Supreme Court yesterday, Nitcharee, fighting to hold back her tears, thanked Singaporeans for their support and generosity. She had received more than $400,000 from donors from Singapore and elsewhere for her medical expenses.
"After so many years of anxiety, I am quite relieved now that the case has came to the final chapter," she said in Thai, through her friend, Ms Umparin Boonsinsuk. "I want to go back to Thailand to study and, if the opportunity arises, I would like to learn more about English law and international law," said Nitcharee, who was in a wheelchair.
Mr Bek told The Straits Times that though Nitcharee does not have to pay the defendants' costs, she had borrowed money from relatives and friends for the appeal. Nitcharee told The Straits Times last night: "I wish I could get the $50,000 in compensation that I had earlier rejected."
This article was first published on October 2, 2014.
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