Man’s claim to be paid for accompanying wife in her suit against PUB dismissed

Singapore Supreme Court (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)
Singapore Supreme Court (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

SINGAPORE — A man’s application to seek various payments for being in court during his wife’s lawsuit against the Public Utilities Board (PUB) has been dismissed by a High Court judge.

Sim Kwang Jui was subpoenaed by PUB as a witness in the trial of the suit between his wife Chan Hui Peng and the national water agency in late 2020. But Sim’s attendance as a witness was scheduled for the second week of the trial, which ended only after four days.

On Friday (23 September), High Court judge Justice Andre Maniam released his judgement explaining the reasons for the court’s dismissal of Sim’s claims for payment in relation to the subpoena.

After the trial ended, Sim sought payment from PUB and its lawyers, WhiteFern. Initially, he wanted to be paid for attending court on the first day of trial, for his transport to and from court, lunch, and one day of his salary. He asked for $784.59 comprising $34.59 for transport and meal expenses, and $750 for his time, saying he earned $14,700 a month. Sim’s profession was not disclosed.

WhiteFern said that it could advise PUB to pay $34.59 for Sim’s transport and meal expenses but he was not prepared to settle for that.

Sim later filed a complaint to the Law Society of Singapore over his “other subpoena fees on (his) first day of attendance in court” but it was dismissed.

He then filed a higher claim of $3,815.09 in the Small Claims Tribunals against WhiteFern, which was also dismissed. He had claimed for five days’ worth of court attendance instead of one day previously.

At that point, PUB offered Sim $1,000 to settle the matter, which was more than his original $784.59 claim but he turned it down.

PUB then asked the trial judge to resolve the issue. By then, Sim’s claims had risen to $7,826.28.

Justice Maniam noted that even before the subpoena was served on Sim, he had planned to attend the trial of his wife’s suit, which was scheduled to start on 23 November 2020.

On 12 November 2020, Sim applied for leave from 23 to 27 November 2020, the first week of trial and his application was approved later in the day.

The subpoena was then served on him on 15 November 2020 by WhiteFern. When Sim raised with WhiteFern the issue of payment for his attendance as a witness in his email on 20 November 2020, he did not tell the firm that he had successfully applied for leave for the first week of trial.

Noting that Sim did not spend time or incur expenses in complying with the subpoena as the trial had ended before his scheduled attendance as a witness, Justice Maniam said, “Mr Sim has spent the better part of two years pursuing payment that he is not entitled to. He should stop chasing after the wind.”

Sim’s wife had taken PUB to court after she fell through an open manhole in December 2015. Chan had sought some $5 million for physical and psychiatric injuries allegedly resulting from the incident.

On 26 November 2020, the fourth day of the trial, Chan threw in the towel and accepted an offer of settlement from PUB's insurers, according to a report by The Straits Times. She was later ordered by the court to pay overall legal costs of $30,000 to PUB, ST said in a separate report on 7 December 2020.

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