Lawsuits can be costly–especially if you lose.
A man who sued Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) for S$800,000 now has to pay $756,000 in total costs after he’d turned down a chance to settle.
Here’s what happened.
What Was The Lawsuit About?
In August 2022, the man, Mr Chia Soon Kim, sued three doctors at TTSH over negligence that had caused the death of his mother, 74-year-old Tan Yaw Lan.
She died in 2018 after cardiac arrest.
On that day, she had been showered by a nursing intern, and fell into a coma, leading to her eventual death caused by ischaemic heart disease and pneumonia, the likely source of infection.
When she presented at the emergency department because of a persistent fever, the source of her infection was not localised. She was admitted to the general ward.
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Mr Chia’s lawyers argued that she had been suffering from type 1 myocardial infection, an acute condition requiring immediate intervention. He also pointed out that they had showered his mother against his wishes, and claimed they had not resuscitated her promptly.
He sued them for $800,000.
The defendant, senior consultant Dr Ranjana, instead argued that she had a type 2 myocardial infection, which could be managed by treating the underlying cause, in this case the unspecified infection.
Lawsuit Was Dismissed
The High Court dismissed Mr Chia’s lawsuit on 13 October 2022, finding that the doctors had not been negligent in treating Mdm Tan.
Justice Choo, who presided over the case, said that the plaintiff had “misunderstood the medical evidence”, and that the evidence did not support their claim that Mdm Tan had been suffering from a type 1 myocardial infection upon admission.
He said that the claims of negligence were “without basis”.
As such, the lawsuit was dismissed, prompting a hearing over the costs and disbursements.
$756,000 In Total Costs
In April 2020, Mr Chia had been offered $15,000 by the defendants to settle the case (i.e. settle out of court), but he did not accept the offer.
TTSH asked for the costs of action to amount to S$625,000, and $156,000 for disbursements.
In the end, Justice Choo fixed the costs of actions at $600,000 instead, lower than what was initially asked for, but said that the disbursements costs were reasonable considering the amount needed to pay expert witnesses and accommodate witnesses from overseas.
“Costs are not meant to punish a failed civil action, but when a reasonable offer to settle was refused and the party refusing ended worse off than the terms offered, the other party should not have to bear the resulting costs that might have been saved,” said Justice Choo.
The amount Mr Chia has to pay now amounts to $756,000—an incredibly hefty sum.
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