Foreign worker seriously injured while transported in open lorry, lawsuit against employers reinstated

His injuries make it difficult for him to secure permanent employment.

Tharun Suresh | March 29, 2024, 09:04 AM



34-year-old Gurusamy Muthu Raja, a migrant construction worker previously employed by Full House Building Construction Pte. Ltd, was seriously injured while being transported in the back of an open lorry on Aug. 19, 2019.

Gurusamy was flung upwards and hit the canopy of the lorry when the driver abruptly applied the brakes.

He was then left with significant injuries to his right elbow and left shoulder that necessitated surgery.

Following the accident, Gurusamy was medically deemed unfit for work.

Full House Building Construction then terminated his employment before repatriating him to India on Jan. 16, 2021.

Gurusamy, to date, continues to receive treatment for his injuries back in India. He is the sole breadwinner for his family but is unable to secure permanent employment.

This has put him in a financially precarious situation, notwithstanding his involvement in legal action against his former employers.

The transport of migrant workers by lorries has been the subject of serious debate for quite some time. Employers argue that the practice is necessary due to operational costs and concerns, while migrant worker rights groups have called for bans on the practice due to the dangers it presents to the transported workers.

Case has been reinstated

Gurusamy filed a suit against his previous employers on Jun. 28, 2021. This claim was then settled on Nov. 2, 2022, with a consent judgment.

The judgment attributed 5% liability to Gurusamy and 95% to his employers.

The claim, however, was automatically discontinued a year later on Nov. 2, 2023, due to a lack of official follow-up from Gurusamy.

In a judgment dated Mar. 21 the case was reinstated, however, meaning that the lawsuit has been resumed.

The decision to reinstate Gurusamy's case came after his application on Dec. 15, 2023.

The judge took into account the proactiveness of his conduct during the initial claim, as well as his present plight.

According to the judgment, Gurusamy was still "suffering from pain and receiving treatment in the form of physiotherapy while trying to make ends meet."

The judgment says that "despite his circumstances, he continued instructing his counsel, with a view to resolving the matter in an amicable, expeditious and cost-efficient manner."

The judge noted that Gurusamy was "not idle during the critical period". He was busy instructing his lawyer to secure an interim payment from his employers as well as procuring various updated medical reports, all with the aim of furthering his case.

He was, however, unaware that these are considered "actions out of court", leading to the discontinuance of his case on Nov. 2, 2023.

The judge concluded:

"I am satisfied that this case presents a rare and exceptional situation in which it is just and necessary to reinstate the action.

The accident robbed the plaintiff of his life and livelihood in Singapore, leaving him with no choice but to return to India.

While his inaction during the critical period is not ideal, he did what he believed he could to progress the case with the cards he was dealt with in life.

As such, his efforts should be recognised, and his inaction pardoned."

Top photo from TWC2