Thursday, October 30, 2014

Re: 4-year-old's death from eating tainted food a misadventure, says coroner

As any readers, I was surprised when I read this news 4-year-old's death from eating tainted food a misadventure, says coroner (The Straits Times; 30 Oct 2014). What was more surprising was reading it in The real Singapore, CORONER: DEATH OF 4YR OLD THAT ATE TAINTED FOOD FROM FOODCOURT WAS JUST A "MISADVENTURE". Do take note of the quotation marks in the latter.

I asked myself, "Surely, I must be reading this wrongly?".

So began my quest to understand the terminology used in coroner's language. Sure enough, the terminology used, e.g. misadventure was used in a proper context, and in line with the coroner's work. That is because, terms such as these: Misadventure, accidental death or an open verdict only meant to be used to describe a death that was not due to deliberate action by someone/oneself.

In the above case, the boy did not intentionally poison himself, and similarly the food stall operator did not intentionally (nor premeditated to) poison the child. That's the coroner's language...

Having said that, it does not mean that Kopitiam (or the stall owner) is free from liability. Civil liability or negligent cases can still be heard by the court and compensation can still be meted out. In addition, Singapore authority can proceed with additional charges and include punitive measures to curb a recurrence.

Let's just hope that the parent will proceed with a civil suit against the stall owner (and/or Kopitiam) to get justice. There is a pro bono legal services in Singapore for help. Having said that, we as readers shouldn't be too shocked with the term "misadventure" used in the reported news. The verdict do not preclude/omit a civil liability of Kopitiam/stall owners (nor did it free them from any wrong). With sufficient circumstantial evidence provided by investigators/authorities, and if the evidence is strong (e.g. presence of Salmonella in the stall/operator), it would make a strong case to get justice and mete out a deterrent sentence.

Just a thought.

  1. Inquests in England & Wales (Wikipedia)
  2. Civil liability/Legal liability (Wikipedia)
  3. Negligence and negligence suits (Wikipedia)
  4. The Law of Negligence (SingaporeLaw dot Sg) - Note that it's too technical for me...
  5. Pro bono legal services in Singapore (by the Law Society of Singapore that provides free legal service for public).

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