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The Straits Times
Thursday, Nov 10, 2016
Open the rear door of a cab to alight and it hits another vehicle, and you may have to pay for the damage.
A passenger who got out of a cab in a mall lobby driveway will do just that in a test case settled in the State Courts on Monday between all three parties involved.
In the case, Ms Amanda Tng, 29, had boarded the cab in Killiney Road on April 24, 2014, and was bound for The Furniture Mall in Toh Guan Road.
After cab driver Zailani Hassan, 51, pulled up outside the recessed drop-off point at the mall's driveway lobby, she opened the door on the right side to get out, not realising a car was passing at that moment.
The collision dislodged the taxi door and left the other car badly damaged with deep scratches and a dent down its entire left side.
Travex, the company which owned the damaged car, sued Mr Zailani through its lawyer Ling Leong Hui for negligence.
His insurers, in turn, represented by lawyer Anthony Wee, named Ms Tng as a third party in the case, seeking to hold her liable for contributory damage payable.
Ms Tng denied the claims in court papers filed, pointing out she did not open the door suddenly and the Travex driver should have seen the cab as he was pulling into the driveway.
All parties appeared before District Judge Koh Juay Kherng on Monday, who is understood to have urged them to arrive at a consensus among themselves.
The three parties agreed to each take some of the blame, with Travex accepting 50 per cent of it. This halved the bill for damage, to be shared between Mr Zailani and Ms Tng, who bore 30 per cent of it.
Her lawyer Tng Kim Choon said the cost of repair was agreed at $5,900 which meant Ms Tng's contribution was about $2,000. He said the legal costs to the Travex driver and the cab driver added another $3,000, which meant her overall payout totalled $5,000.
He said yesterday: "I hope this case will alert the authorities and members of the public on a matter which may have been overlooked."
He noted there was case law holding a passenger liable if he were to alight at a traffic junction and cause injury to a third party and the taxi driver was caught unawares.
But Mr Tng said that the past case law had "nothing similar" to that of his client who was held liable, even though the taxi driver had not used the designated passenger drop-off point.
She had to pay almost $5,000 as her contribution for the repair and for legal costs even though there was no trial. "Had this case proceeded to trial, I would have taken it on appeal on a point of public interest whatever the outcome," he noted.
He explained the issue was whether a cab driver owed a duty of care to his passenger to ensure not only the latter's safety but also that the passenger is not liable as a third party for damage to the taxi and the plaintiff's car in a collision.