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Thursday April 9, 2009

Bernama journalist to be awarded damages

KUALA LUMPUR: After seven years of pain and suffering caused by a monorail safety wheel falling on him, a Bernama journalist saw justice being done when the High Court held the monorail operator liable for the incident.

Judicial Commissioner Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal ruled yesterday that David Chelliah @ Kovilpillai Chelliah David had established a prima facie case of negligence against the defendants, Monorail Malaysia Technology (MMT) and KL Monorail Systems Sdn Bhd (KLMS).

He said at the time of the incident on Aug 18, 2002, the safety wheel was under the sole control of the defendants.

The defendants had also failed to produce credible evidence to show that the incident occurred without their negligence, he said.

However, Harmindar Singh found that the Director-General of the Railway Department (DGR) was not liable for the incident as the latter had undertaken his duties and functions quite seriously.

He then ordered that the damages be assessed by the High Court Senior Assistant Registrar (SAR). The SAR has fixed May 20 for case management.

Chelliah, 47, who is now a sub-editor with Bernama, suffered serious head and body injuries after the monorail safety wheel came off and hit him while he was crossing Jalan Sultan Ismail on Aug 18, 2002.

In 2003, he filed a RM5mil negligence suit against MMT, the designer and manufacturer of KL Monorail; KLMS, the company responsible for the installation, commission and operation of the trains; and the DGR, the approving and certifying authority under the Minister of Transport of any railway scheme.

When met by reporters after the judgment, Chelliah said the decision signalled the end of his long and painful struggle since the incident, which almost killed him.

“I have been put through tremendous pain and suffering, and my medical and psychological injuries have severely impaired my quality of life. At times I felt that I may not live to see this day,” he said.

Counsel Steven Thiru and Brian Jit Singh represented Chelliah, while counsel T. Tharumarajah represented MMT and KLMS, while Senior Federal Counsel Lailawati Ali acted for the director-general.

Harmindar Singh, in his 17-page judgment, said the defendants had also failed to provide a reasonable explanation as to how the safety wheel had come off the train and instead relied on the possibility that there had been tampering by unknown persons.

“However, no evidence of tampering was disclosed save for references to that in various investigation reports. It therefore remained a hypothesis but significantly, it could not have been the only possible cause. It might also have been the case that the bolts were not sufficiently tightened by the defendant’s employees,” he said. – Bernama