In December 2011, Mdm Ding Weibo fell into a coma after hitting her head against a metal bar on board SMRT bus service 167. Mdm Ding and her daughter had boarded the bus along Orchard Road, and the driver started accelerating away from the bus stop before the two sat down. As mother and daughter were walking towards empty seats at the back of the bus, the driver jammed the brakes suddenly.
The sudden halt caused Mdm Ding to lose her balance and fall backwards, hitting her head and sustaining severe injuries. The driver was subsequently charged in court for causing grievous hurt by a negligent act, and ordered to pay a fine of S$4,500.
SMRT agreed on 24 Nov to bear 95 per cent of the cost associated with Madam Ding Weibo’s injuries.
Mdm Ding removed part of her skull to relieve the swelling of her brain. Four years have passed, but Mdm Ding “continues to suffer from the injuries sustained in that accident … unable to revert to the lifestyle she once enjoyed”, said her lawyer Tito Isaac.
According to medical and psychiatric reports, Mdm Ding suffers from giddiness, headaches, poor memory and has difficulty sleeping. She is also likely to need long term care. She sued SMRT and the bus driver for negligence through her husband, Mr You Bujia.
SMRT’s defence was that it was not responsible for the driver’s negligence, and instead alleged that Mdm Ding was partly to blame for the accident and resulting injuries she sustained. Mdm Ding should have “taken better care of herself” by holding on to the hand rails and sitting at vacant seats at the front of the bus, instead of opting to walk to the rear of the bus as it was moving off.
Mdm Ding’s daughter gave evidence in the contrary, and said that her mother was holding on to the hand rails at the time. The impact was so great that Mdm Ding was unable to maintain her grip, and Mdm Ding’s daughter herself almost fell, she said.
The family’s lawyer Mr Isaac said the bus driver had “failed to provide any reasonable explanation for braking so abruptly”. In fact, he denied braking abruptly at all, in contrast with Mdm Ding’s daughter’s evidence and his criminal conviction, Mr Isaac said, in seeking 100 per cent of cost from the defendants, including the cost of future medical expenses.
The defendants stated that Mdm Ding “did not take reasonable care of herself”, adding she should bear 20 per cent of the cost, as she was contributorily negligent.
The parties later settled, with SMRT agreeing to bear 95 per cent of the cost. A date for the next hearing to determine total damages has yet to be set.