1. A claim for compensation under an employment contract negotiated between the shipowners and the claimant’s union lay within the Admiralty jurisdiction of the Singapore High Court under s.3(1)(f) of the High Court (Admiralty Jurisdiction) Act. To found admiralty jurisdiction under that section it was not necessary that the claim for loss of life or personal injury be based on fault.
2. The compensation claim in this case formed part of the claimant’s remuneration as a benefit in kind and was analogous to a benefit derived from an insurance scheme arranged by the claimant’s employers. As such, it was not deductible from the damages already paid to the claimant by his employers in settlement of his claim in tort.
DMC Category Rating: Developed
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In September 1992, Stanko was injured on board the ship, when he was pushed off an elevator landing in the engine room by an engine valve which dropped on him, causing him to fall some 5 or 6 metres to the engine room floor. Stanko was seriously injured and became permanently disabled. He alleged that the valve had not been properly secured due to the improper construction of the valve seat and that fellow crew members engaged in dismounting the valve had used unsafe work practices.
Stanko brought an action in rem in the Admiralty jurisdiction of the Singapore High Court claiming damages for the injuries he had sustained and in addition compensation under clause 15 of his contract of engagement. Shortly before trial, the claim for damages was settled, without any deduction to take account of the contractual compensation. The issue whether Stanko was entitled to the compensation in addition to the damages he had been paid was left for the court to decide.
In analysing the wording of section 3(1)(f), the court concluded that, to found admiralty jurisdiction, it was not necessary that the claim be based on fault. The first leg of the section – ‘any claim for loss of life or personal injury sustained in consequence of any defect in an ship….’ was not necessarily based on fault, whereas the second leg – ‘any claim ….. sustained in consequence of the wrongful act, neglect or default of the owners….’ clearly was based on fault.
In reliance on The Trade Fair case, the court held that the words ‘any claim for loss of life or personal injury’ were to be construed as meaning ‘any claim arising out of loss of life or personal injury’. Stanko’s claim under the employment contract fell within this definition. The section covered ‘any claim’ and, in the court’s view, it did not matter ‘whether the claim is in the nature of damages or indemnity or compensation or even a contractual claim’. It was also, given the circumstances of Stanko’s accident, a claim sustained in consequence of either ‘a defect in the ‘Mara’, or in her apparel or equipment or of the wrongful act, neglect or default of persons’ for which the owners of the ‘Mara’ were responsible. Hence the claim fell within the admiralty jurisdiction of the court.
2 Double recovery
In neither of these cases will the money received by the claimant be deducted from any damages he is awarded.
The court continued: ‘The number of such exceptions is by no means closed and there are circumstances where payments made to the injured claimants do not fall precisely and squarely within either of the exceptions but are nonetheless not deductible in the assessment of recoverable loss.’
In examining article 15 of the employment contract, the court said:
‘It seems to us that the intent and purpose of art.15 is to provide the employee a kind of financial security in the form of an annuity for the rest of the employee’s natural life [not just for th in the event that he suffers any disability as a result of an accident whilst in the employment of the ship through no fault of his. Broadly speaking, it is analogous to a benefit derived from an insurance scheme arranged by or through the shipowners and it formed part of the employee’s remuneration as a benefit in kind.’
The court continued:
The court therefore held that the claimant was entitled to the payment under art.15 without having it deducted from the damages paid under the settlement of the tort claim against the shipowners.
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