If I fall onto the MRT tracks and suffer injury, can I claim compensation from SMRT?

Last updated on June 26, 2011

In Oct 2011, 14-year-old Thai girl Nitcharee Peneakchanasak sued SMRT for S$3.4 million after falling onto the tracks and losing both her legs. This incident has posed an interesting question that may set a precedent for years to come. Is SMRT liable for injuries suffered by commuters who fall onto railway tracks?

As examined in an earlier article, Singapore’s tort laws on occupier’s liability places a certain degree of responsibility on the shoulders of an occupier. SMRT qualifies as an occupier, as they have clear control of the infrastructure and safety precautions of an MRT station.

In the quoted example above, the Thai girl Nitcharee, being a paying commuter of SMRT, is an invitee. An invitee is someone invited to the occupier’s premises for business dealings.

As the occupier, SMRT must take all reasonable care to prevent harm caused to the commuter, as a result of any dangers present in the premises that they knew or ought to have known of.

As the occupier, SMRT will only be liable for injuries or damage suffered if:

  1. SMRT actually knew or ought to have known of the danger;
  2. The danger was unusual to the commuter with regards to the nature of the place and the knowledge of the invitee;
  3. The danger was unknown to the commuter and the significance was not appreciated by them; and
  4. SMRT failed to use reasonable care to prevent damage from occurring.

In our hypothetical scenario, the first element is satisfied. SMRT ought to know that a commuter falling onto the tracks could prove extremely dangerous. However, the danger is not unusual to the commuter. The reasonable man in the commuter’s shoes ought to be aware of the danger of oncoming trains and take care to keep a sufficient distance away from the edge of the platform. Therefore, the second and third elements required are not present.

In addition, the court will make a value judgment to decide if yellows lines and warning signs alone were sufficient to constitute reasonable care to prevent damage from occurring to the commuter. This would depend on the risk of danger, as well as the cost of precaution. Public policy can come into play when deciding whether safety barriers should have been erected, when such precautions can have an effect of inflating train fares.

It is thus unlikely that a Singapore court would grant compensation to a commuter who suffers physical injuries at an MRT station.