Saturday, November 08, 2003

"Crippling fall at Ubin [Adventure Centre]: Woman awarded $1.65m"

Crippling fall at Ubin: Woman awarded $1.65m
The Straits Times, 8 November 2003

AN ACCOUNTANT, paralysed from the waist down after an accident at an adventure course, has been awarded $1.65 million in damages and costs.

The award is possibly the highest given here for a personal injury claim but Ms Ivy Lim Yee Ming, 29, is not getting it yet.

There is a stay of execution because two of the three defendants being sued for negligence over the accident on Pulau Ubin three years ago have appealed.

Until her case, the highest award was $1.25 million, which Madam Sim Bee Ngo received in 1997 in an out-of-court settlement of a medical negligence suit.

Madam Sim, now in her 40s, had sued a hospital and a consultant surgeon for a botched gallstones operation in 1991.

With Ms Lim, the injury resulted from a fall after rain had aborted the final activity, called flying fox, for her group. She was being lowered from a 24m-high pyramid when she fell 10m to the ground and broke several ribs and fractured two vertebrae.

It happened on Dec 15, 2000, during an outdoor adventure programme called Team Pyramid Challenge at the Ubin Adventure Centre.

Her then-employer, logistics company Trans-Link Express, had organised it and engaged Ubin Lagoon Resort, the centre's operator, to conduct the programme for its employees. Ms Lim was then its senior accounts executive.

Before her turn, an 86kg employee, Mr Fredrick Ngnasegkar, had been successfully lowered to the ground.

Ms Lim spent 3 1/2 months in hospital and has lost control of her bowels and bladder. Every night, her adoptive mother, who is her father's sister, has to turn her body every two hours to prevent bed sores and wake her every four hours to drain her urine.

'My entire family, including me, is extremely traumatised by the accident,' she said in court earlier this year. She was represented by Mr Quek Mong Hua, Mr Matthew Saw and Ms Daphne Lim.

The three defendants found liable were Ubin Lagoon Resort, contractor Adventure Training Systems (Asia-Pacific), a sports equipment company, and supplier Adventure Training Systems, an Australian company.

But Ubin Lagoon Resort and Adventure Training Systems (Asia-Pacific) have appealed. The appeal will be heard in February.

Justice Lai Kew Chai found that the cause of Ms Lim's fall was not due to any error on the part of the instructor but resulted from inadequate training of instructors.

The supplier was entirely at fault but the contractor, too, had breached implied terms of the agreement by not providing proper and adequate training to instructors on how to operate the equipment, said Justice Lai.

Last night, Ms Lim, sitting in a wheelchair at her sister's home, broke down as she described how she was robbed of her independence. 'I am now totally dependent on others and cannot go out without being accompanied by at least two persons.' Once, she would jog 2.4km at least once a week, play badminton and ice-skate. 'I used to weigh 50kg and exercised to stay fit. Now, I dare not look at the weighing scales,' she said, wincing at the weight she has gained.

Her days are spent watching TV, reading or looking forward to her weekly dinner outing with friends or family. What alarms her family is her frequent urinary tract infection. 'Suddenly,
she will get a fever at night and it scares us,' said her elder brother.

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