Insurers for rail operator, authority open to talks on costs of over $200k

INSURERS of rail operator SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said they may not pursue more than $200,000 in trial costs from the Thai teenager who lost both legs in a train accident.

That is, if she does not appeal against the High Court’s decision.

Nitcharee Peneakchanasak, 17, saw her bid to claim $3.4 million in damages over an April 2011 accident at Ang Mo Kio station dismissed by Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy.

In an 81-page judgment released earlier this month, he said SMRT and the LTA were not at fault after she fell onto the tracks and was hit by a train pulling in – leading to one leg being severed and the other being amputated.

Nitcharee, represented by lawyer Cosmas Gomez, now has to bear the cost of the 13-day trial in 2012. However lawyer K. Anparasan of KhattarWong, acting for SMRT’s and LTA’s insurers, told The Straits Times yesterday: “Although the plaintiff’s claim has been dismissed with cost, the insurers of SMRT and LTA are open to discussions in the event that the plaintiff does not appeal against the Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy’s decisions.”

Mr Anparasan estimated the cost for the 13-day trial is in excess of $200,000 – excluding disbursements like stamp fees, transcription fees, expert report fees, expert attendance fees and other incidental expenses. One expert was flown to Singapore from Toronto for the hearing.

The additional disbursements could easily come up to over $50,000. However, Mr Anparasan said that to date, his clients have not taken any steps to enforce their rights under the judgment.

In a phone interview with The Straits Times last Saturday from Bangkok, Nitcharee said through her Singaporean guardian Christopher Bek, that she is trying to raise funds among her family and friends for her appeal.

“I am saddened and disappointed in the outcome,” she said. “But I still believe in the judicial system of Singapore and I have faith that the outcome of my appeal would be fair.”

Mr Bek, who visited Nitcharee in Bangkok over the weekend, added: “I cannot understand the judge’s decision to award the defendants with cost when everyone knows she is the victim. Is she at fault for falling down onto the track? If she is not at fault, then why victimise her even further?”

Mr Bek, a member of Singapore’s Rotary E-Club, is trying to raise funds for Nitcharee’s appeal and plans to hold a press conference later this month.

Justice Vinodh explained his decision, saying Ang Mo Kio station was “reasonably safe” at the time she was injured, thus the defendants were not liable. He added: “The law of negligence awards compensation based on a defendant’s culpability, not simply because a plaintiff suffered harm.”

Nitcharee, who sued through her 58-year-old father Kittanesh Peneakchanasak, has until Jan 30 to appeal.

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