Personal injury or death – Appeal against damages awarded – Aggravated damages – Exemplary damages – Whether section 8(2) of the Civil Law Act 1956 is an absolute bar to the award of exemplary damages in an estate claim? – Civil Law Act 1956, Section 8(2)

Koperal Zainal Bin Mohd Ali & Ors v Selvi A/P Narayan & Anor
Civil Appeal No 01(f)-2- 01/2018(W), Federal Court

- see the grounds of judgment here

Facts The deceased died four days after he was arrested on suspicion of being involved in a kidnapping case and detained in a police lock-up. At the inquest into the death, the coroner ruled that the death was due to negligence, omission, and dereliction of duties on the part of the police. A suit was brought by the respondents, who were the wife and daughter of the deceased to claim for losses suffered due to the wrongful acts of the appellant. The High Court held that the respondents had proven their claims in negligence (by omission) and public misfeasance. The compensation comprises MYR200,000 in exemplary damages, loss of dependency compensation amounting to MYR144,000, besides MYR10,000 for bereavement and MYR3,500 in special damages had been awarded to the respondents. The appellants are dissatisfied with the decision in respect of the award of exemplary damages (MYR 200,000) and filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal, but it was dismissed. Hence, this appeal.

Issues Whether Section 8(2) of the Civil Law Act 1956
[1] (“CLA”) is an absolute bar to the award of exemplary damages in an estate claim?

Held In allowing the appeal, the Federal Court held that the conditions to award exemplary damages under section 8(2) of the CLA to the respondents had not been met in this case however, that does not mean that the appellants are allowed to walk away scot free for the wrong that had been done to the deceased. The Court further stated that without resorting to a violent interpretation of the said section, punishment can and ought to be meted out under aggravated damages. Consequentially, the sum of MYR200,000 is awarded as aggravated damages instead of exemplary damages.

ZUL RAFIQUE & partners
{30 March 2021}
[1]Where a cause of action survives as aforesaid for the benefit of the estate of a deceased person, the damages recoverable for the benefit of the estate of that person —
(a) shall not include any exemplary damages, any damages for bereavement made under subsection 7(3A), any damages for loss of expectation of life and any damages for loss of earnings in respect of any period after that person’s death