Earlier this week, there was an interesting altercation in Katong. According to the Straits Times, the cyclist jumped onto the bonnet of the car which was then seen moving while the cyclist clung on. Both women have been arrested, I will refrain from commenting further on the criminal aspect since it is sub judice. However is there a possibility of civil action that the cyclist can take against the driver?
It is unclear from both the videos and news article whether the cyclist suffered any physical injury. Furthermore, physical injury may only be revealed after a detailed medical exam. Nonetheless, psychiatric harm or nervous shock is claimable under tort especially since the cyclist is the primary victim who went through the traumatic event herself.
This falls under the tort of negligence. A driver owes a duty of care to other road users. The cyclist can argue that it was reasonably foreseeable that the cyclist will suffer physical and psychiatric harm directly as a result of her driving off with the cyclist on the bonnet. At first glance, it would seem like the cyclist does indeed have a cause of action.
What defence does the driver have against such a claim? The first would be the defence of contributory negligence. The driver can argue that by jumping onto the bonnet, the cyclist did not take reasonable care of her own safety and should bear some responsibility for her own injuries. However, the cyclist can also counter that argument by claiming that she could not have reasonably foreseen that the driver would actually drive off with her on the bonnet. It is also important to note here that according the the Straits Times article, the cyclist jumped onto the bonnet before the driver drove off. If the driver drove off and the cyclist jumped on to prevent being run over, then the courts would likely not find any contributory negligence due to it being an emergency situation as happened in Jones vs Boyce (1816).
The second possible defence that the driver has is that of Ex turpi causa non oritur actio. The driver can claim that the cyclist has engaged in illegal activity which resulted in the injuries sustained, and that the courts should not assist the cyclist as it would be against public policy. We do not want to encourage opportunistic members of public to start obstructing traffic all over the island and provoke drivers into performing a rash act, it would render our roads useless. This argument does have some merit as well.
An interesting case indeed.