Case name: Abraham v Choo Jit Fung and another [1965-1967] SLR(R) 10

Date of decision: 26 July 1965

Decision of the Federal Court (delivered by Wee Chong Jin CJ): The Federal Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the decision of the trial judge.

Grounds of appeal 

This is an appeal by Abraham against the decision of the trial judge that he was negligent in his driving. Abraham appealed on the grounds that there is insufficient evidence of negligence on his part and that the respondent, Choo Jit Fung (“Choo“), was guilty of contributory negligence. Abraham also challenged the quantum of the damages ($6,000) awarded to Choo by the trial judge.

Background to decision below 

Choo was knocked down by a car driven by Abraham on her way to school while crossing the road. She was 7 years and 10 months at the time of the incident. At trial, Choo’s evidence was that  before she started to cross the road, she looked to the left and saw a car far away. She proceeded to cross the road slightly in front of three other companions. Choo and her companions walked while crossing the road. Whilst halfway across the road, Choo looked to the left again and saw that the car was still some distance away. She continued on but almost immediately after, she was run into. Abraham’s evidence was that he did not notice the Choo and her companions while they were on the road, until he was almost unto them. He estimated his car speed to be about 25 to 30mph. Abraham, on cross-examination, could not pinpoint whether the girls were running or walking but maintained that he did not see them until they were in his path.

As a result of this accident, Choo had to undergo operation to remove her spleen as her spleen ruptured, and sustained a fractured left lemur.

The trial judge held that Abraham had failed to keep a lookout while driving, because had he done so he would have seen the children when they were on the road.

The appeal

Whether Abraham was negligent in his driving
The Court held that this is clear case of negligence by failure to keep a proper lookout (at [4]). There was no substance in the argument put forth by Abraham that there was no evidence or insufficient evidence of negligence on his part. In contrary, the Court found that there was overwhelming evidence that Abraham was negligent because he failed to keep a proper lookout.

Supposing Abraham was negligent, whether Choo was contributorily negligent
The Court agreed with the trial judge’s finding that Choo had acted as a normal child of her age. There was nothing irregular or unsatisfactory in the manner Choo crossed the road (at [6]), and that “children cannot be expected to act with the same degree of caution as an adult person“. Therefore, the Court held that Choo should not be held liable and contributorily negligent.

Whether the quantum of damages awarded is proper
The Court agreed that $6,000 as damages for a fracture of the left lemur and a loss of a spleen is a proper quantum to reward. The medical report tendered to Court stated that Choo’s “removal of the spleen might be of quite serious consequences were the person to suffer from malaria or other blood dycrasia” (at [8]). The Court held that there was no argument put forth by Abraham to show that the award was excessive, save for the complaint that there was no other evidence produced at trial as to the effect of the removal of the spleen (at [9]).

Note: This case summary is not intended to be a substitute for the case reported by Court. This is merely a law student’s attempt and practice at writing a case summary.