A high Court judge this morning adjourned hearing of what he called an “extraordinary” road accident claim of nearly $1.8 million – the highest of its kind in the history of Singapore courts.

The claim is by a 30-year-old Australian drilling fluid engineer, Mr. Geoffrey Ronald Atkinson, who says he lost his job and is unlikely to work again in the oilfields as a result of an accident involving his motorcycle and a car three years ago.

Mr. Atkinson is claiming loss of earnings at $8,000 a month for 15 years, plus general and special damages as a results of the accident in East Coast Road.

Mr. Singa Retnam, counsel for the defendant, Mr Gan Hock Leng, 27, a mechanic, told Mr. Justice T S Sinnathuray that it was only at 5 pm yesterday that he had received the new and substantial increased claim.

He told the judge the new claim was not in accordance with agreed documents. He said it was based on a fresh medical specialist report by Dr. Ong Leong Boon, who was in court.

He said it was only fair that the defense had time to get its own medical specialist into the case.

He said that until January this year, he had repeatedly asked the plaintiff’s counsel if there were any more documents to the case, but none were forthcoming.

Counsel said the new claim was based on “alleged residual disability” of Mr. Atkinson which had gone into the calculations for loss of earnings.

Mr. Karuppan Chettiar for Mr. Atkinson denied that the claim was new or an increased claim. He said the claim had never been quantified until Dr. Ong could complete his report.

At various times, counsel said he had replied to Mr. Retnam’s queries on further reports and once had suggested a meeting.

In his claim for special damages, Mr. Karupan said Mr. Atkinson was unable to do any fieldwork which he used to do before the accident.

His services had been terminated in February 1982, about nine months after the accident.

Mr. Atkinson was unlikely to get employment in oil fields, and his future prospects would be affected.

Mr. Atkinson was now 30, and a trend had been set to award future loss based on a straight multiplier. If the injured was 30 years of age, the number of years to be taken into account for future loss was 15 years.

He said Atkinson would not be able to return to his pre-accident employment for obvious reasons.

In order to mitigate damages, he had set up his own business, in which he had not yet started to earn a profit. He expected to earn an average for A$1,000 (about S$1,900) after a period of five years from the commencement of his business.

He started his business in February last year, and the present earnings were just enough to pay the rent and other operating expenses.

Had Mr. Atkinson not been injured in the accident, his income with the oil companies would have increased.

Taking this into account and taking into account the possible income Mr. Atkinson could expect in his business, Mr. Karuppan suggested a sum of $8,000 per month for loss of future earnings.

At this rate for 15 years, the amount would come to $1,440,000.

The total claim of $1,788,893,10 would include three other items as follows:

  • GENERAL DAMAGES for pain and suffering and loss of amenities $65,000.
  • SPECIAL DAMAGES other than loss of earnings from 1 Mar 1982 $75,893.10
  • LOSS OF EARNINGS at $8,000 (US $3,900) from 1 Mar 1982 to date of trial – 26 months $208,000

Mr. Justice Sinnathuray adjourned the case until the parties are ready to proceed. A date of hearing is to be fixed by the High Court Registrar.