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Singapore’s High Court overturns family’s work injury compensation award for man's heart attack

Out-Law News | 30 Jun 2022 | 9:21 am | 1 min. read

Singapore’s High Court has overturned a decision to award work injury compensation to the family of a man who died of a heart attack during working hours.

The High Court ruled (35-page / 388KB PDF) that the man’s death was not an "injury by accident” covered by the injury compensation laws.

Mayumi Soh of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture between MPillay and Pinsent Masons, said: “Employers and insurers should take note of this important distinction as it will have an impact on any payout under the Work Injury Compensation Act.”

On 20 October 2018, Tay Tuan Yong began experiencing chest pains after arriving at his workplace. He sought medical attention at a nearby hospital but passed away later that day after suffering a cardiac arrest. The assistant commissioner (AC) ruled that Tay had suffered a personal injury caused by an accident arising during the course of his employment, awarding S$204,000 in compensation to his family. On appeal, however, the High Court set aside the AC’s order and ruled that Tay’s family had no right to the compensation.

Under the Work Injury Compensation Act, an employer is liable to compensate an employee for any “injury by accident” which occurs during his or her employment.

The High Court concluded that the AC had erred in holding that Tay’s heart attack was an "injury by accident”. Beyond his pre-existing medical conditions, Tay’s family had not proven that there was anything external which occurred in the course of employment that had triggered his heart attack. Evidence showed that the events leading to Tay's death began at 7am on the date of the incident, or possibly even earlier.