The High Court has thrown out a suit against the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) brought by the family of a full-time national serviceman who died in 2012 from an allergic reaction to smoke grenades during a military exercise.
Private Dominique Sarron Lee, 21, collapsed with breathing difficulties during the training exercise on Apr 17, 2012, and his family sued for negligence on the part of the SAF, his platoon commander and the chief safety officer of the exercise. The defendants argued that they are indemnified from suits for negligence if the deaths or injuries occurred during service, citing a provision under Section 14 of the Government Proceedings Act.
In a closed-door hearing on Thursday (Mar 3), Judicial Commissioner Kannan Ramesh agreed that the incident fell within the provision and dismissed the suit.
The incident started during an urban obstacle training exercise involving hand grenades at Murai Urban Training Facility at Lim Chu Kang. Lee lost consciousness and was first taken to Sungei Gedong Medical Centre, and then to the National University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
In 2013, the State Coroner ruled that Lee died from an acute allergic reaction from inhaling zinc chloride fumes, which came from the smoke grenades.
Mr Irving Choh, who represented Lee’s family, argued that there is a contract between Lee and the SAF. In his submissions, Mr Choh said this issue was “a novel point of law that has never been canvassed before the court and should be given an opportunity to be ventilated”. But JC Kannan disagreed that Lee’s family was entitled to sue for negligence.
Lawyer R S Bajwa represented platoon commander Captain Najib Hanuk Muhamad Jalal, while safety officer Captain Chia Thye Siong was represented by lawyer Laurence Goh.
Lee’s mother declined to comment when contacted, but pointed TODAY to her post on a Facebook page dedicated to her son’s memory.
She wrote: “It has been three years and 10 months since you were taken from me and, still, I haven’t been able to get any closure.” She added that the family has to bear the legal costs for the lawsuit.
Mr Choh said there is a likelihood that the family is considering to appeal against the High Court’s decision.