Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pay and Pay

Looks like the pay and pay culture is quite well entrenched here. And of course the Singaporean commoners are the ones paying whether they like it or not.

We pay fines and penalties to ensure that we obey whatever rules and orders impose on us.

We pay more GST to help the needy.

We would most likely be paying for those blessed with long life.

And if we are unfortunate enough we could even be paying for mistakes we do not make!

An extremely unlucky Mr Lock was ordered to pay court charges of $45,000 just because he went to Primary Dispute Resolution Centre (PDRC), which has no legal authority at all, to settle his traffic accident. It just makes one wonders who set up PDRC. And if the learned PDRC judge didn't know that he had no legal authority to issue any order would commoner Lock know any better?
Home > Free > Story
July 17, 2007
Awarded $188 in claim, he may now have to pay $63k
By K.C. Vijayan, Law Correspondent

A MOTORCYCLIST who was originally awarded $188 in an accident claim may end up paying $63,000 in court costs instead.

An appeal against these costs will be made on Friday after a judge deferred the case yesterday to give 35-year-old motorcyclist Jonathan Lock's lawyer time to prepare.

A High Court decision regarding the case has also thrown into doubt the enforceability of settlements made through the Primary Dispute Resolution Centre (PDRC).

The PDRC was set up by the Subordinate Courts to deal with minor accidents not involving personal injury or exceeding $1,000 in claims.

The case started simply enough last year as a dispute between Mr Lock and motorist Jessiline Goh, 31, over a minor traffic collision in 2004.

In the initial ruling at the PDRC, the district judge who helped settle the dispute decided that Mr Lock would get about $1,187, including costs.

This amount included various court charges as well as $188 for damage to his motorcycle.

But Ms Goh appealed to the High Court - after two losses in the lower courts - before winning a ruling in May that the decision of PDRC was invalid.

Ms Goh's lawyers from Assomull & Partners argued that the judge overseeing the mediation had no power to issue a court order since the settlement was not part of a court proceeding.

They contended that the PDRC - or e@dr Centre as it is now known - is not the equivalent of a court.

Justice Lai Siu Chiu agreed, and this triggered the landmark decision.

Costs totalling $63,000 were awarded to Ms Goh after an assessment last week by assistant registrar Dorcas Quek.

Yesterday, Mr Lock's lawyer, Mr Joseph Chen, sought to get the High Court to review its decision.

Justice Lai Siu Chiu agreed to postpone the case to Friday to allow Mr Chen to prepare his arguments.

Lawyer Madan Asomull, who represented Ms Goh, is not content either. He wants to cross-appeal for an upward revision of the $63,000, claiming it is unsufficient considering the amount of work done.

In her judgment, Justice Lai suggested that appropriate laws would have to be passed if the intention was for Court Dispute Resolution - the formal name for the mediation process - to run parallel to court procedures.

Her judgment in May sparked a move from the Subordinate Courts registrar to issue a directive, which held that all settlements reached through the PDRC would now have to be endorsed by the courts to give them the weight of a legal judgment.

Contacted yesterday, Mr Chen said he would be seeking a stay of the costs order, pending a review by an appeals court.

'The entire process defeats the objective of court-based mediation, which was meant to settle small claims at minimal cost,'' he said.