564:H. N. G. FERNANDO, J.—Ceylon Motor Transit Co. Ltd. v. David
1962 Present:H. N. G. Fernando, J., and L. B. de Silva, J.CEYLON MOTOR TRANSIT CO. LTD., Appellant, andS. M. DAVID, Respondent
8. C. 140/1961—D. C. Colombo, 43014/M
Workmen's Compensation Ordinance—Section 60—Injured workman—Acceptance ofcompensation from employer—Effect thereof as bar to subsequent action.
Under section 60 of the Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance a workman whohas accepted a sum of money as compensation in accordance with the Ordinancein respect of an injury suffered by him is not entitled to maintain an action inthe courts for damages in respect of that injury. In such a case, the workmanis presumed to know that his agreement to accept the sum would bringsection 60 into operation.
7.PPEAL from a judgment of the District Court, Colombo.
C. Ranganathan, with S. J. Kadirgamar and K. N. Choksy, for 1stdefendant-appellant.
No appearance for the respondent.
Cur. adv. vult.
January 15, 1962. H. N. G. Fernando, J.—
The plaintiff in this action who bad been employed by the 1stdefendant Company as a lorry cleaner sued the 1st defendant fordamages in a sum of Rs. 10,000 in respect of injuries sustained by theplaintiff in the course of his employment when a lorry driven by anotheremplcyee of the defendant Company collided with a tree.
H. N. G. FERNANDO, J.—Ceylon Motor Transit Co. Ltd■ v. David 565
The defendant's Answer did not challenge the facts as stated in theplaint but relied only on a point of law, namely that the plain tiff havingaccepted a sum of Rs. 3,560 as compensation in accordance with theWorkmen’s Compensation Ordinance in respect of the injury suffered byhim, he was not in law e ititled to maintain an action in the courts fordamages in respect of that injury. The relevant part of section 60 of theOrdinance is that “ no action for damages shall be maintainable by anyworkman in any court of law in respect of any injury … if hehas agreed with nis employer to accept compensation in respectof theinjury in accordance with the provisions of this Ordinance”.
The Accountant of the defendant Company gave evidence on itsbehalf to the effect that the Company was insured with Royal ExchangeAssurance Company in respect of iff liability under the Woxkmen’sCompensation Ordinance and that in the normal way the InsuranceCompany was informed of this accident and the plaintiff examined by adoctor. In accordance with the medical report a sum of Rs. 2,520 waspaid to the plaintiff on 30th July 1956. On that occasion, in accordancewith the provisions in that behalf contained in the Workmen’s Compen-satio j Ordinance, the memorandum of agreement D3 was signed by theAccountant on behalf of the Company and by the plaintiff to the effectthat the parties had agreed to pay and accept respectively the Bum ofRs. 2,520 in full settlement of the workman’s claim under the Workmen’sCompensation Ordinance.
The Accountant said in his evidence that the contents of forms such asD3, which are in English, are always explained to the workmen becausethey have difficulty in understanding the contents. This presumably isbecause the forms used by the Company were in English. According tothis witness the contents of the form D3 was explained to the plaintiff bythe clerk who attended to payments to the minor employees. He saidthat the clerk explained it in Sinhalese and that he himself understoodSinhalese well enough to know that the contents were correctly explained.
Subsequently there was another medical report in respect of theplaintiff and on 30th September 1957 a further sum of Rs. 840 was paid tothe plaintiff. On this occasion another memorandum of agreement D1was signed by the Secretary of the Company and by the plaintiff. Whileit is not clear that on the first occasion the signature of the plaintiff waswitnessed by some friend of his, on the second occasion it is admitted bythe plaintiff that he brought one Miranda with him, and D1 shows thatMiranda signed as a witness. Despite this evidence of the Accountantthat the contents of the document were explained on both occasions tothe plaintiff the learned District Judge had held that the plaintiff “ wasnot aware when he received the first sum paid as compensation that itwas a payment made in terms of the Ordinaxice ”.
The plaintiff in his evidence denied outright that the contents of thetwo documents were ever explained to him or that he had knowledge thaton the first occasion the payment was made to him as compensation by
566 H. N. G-. FERNANDO, J.—Ceylon Motor Transit Co. Ltd. v. David
reason of the accident. He said also that at the time he was unawarethat a workman can claim compensation under the Workmen’sCompensation Ordinance. According to him he was only told thatthe document relates to the accident and that it was being paid to himfor treatment.
It is apparent that the plaintiff after receiving the first payment in1956 had consulted a Proctor whose advice was available to him beforethe second payment was made. On the 17th September 1957 theProctor wrote to the defendant Company with reference to the sum ofRs. 840 which was the further compensation payable to the plaintiff. Inthis letter the Proctor requested the Defendant Company to allow theplairtiff to draw the sum of Rs. 840 without prejudice however to hisrights to bring an action against the Insurance Company. One of thepoints made by the learned Judge against the defendant Company is thatin view of this letter the plaintiff when he received the second paymentwas entitled to assume that his rights to recover damages under thecommon law were not prejudiced. This consideration ii my opinionwas not relevant for the reason that if the acceptance of the first paymentdid in fact bring section 60 of the Ordinance into operation then thecircumstances in which the second payment was made could not bait theoperation of the section. Tc put the matter in another way the state ofmind of the plaintiff on the second occasion affords no clue to what hisstate of mind was when he accepted the first payment.
In regard to the necessity for an explanation of the contents of thememorandum of agreement D3 it seems to me that what had to be said tothe plaintiff was very simple. All that was necessary was to ask himwhether he agreed to accept the sum of Rs. 2,520 in full settlement of hisclaim under the Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance. What has to beclearly borne in mind however is that according to the principle ignorantiajuris hand neminem excusat the plaintiff was presumed to know (althoughI must concede that he probably did not in fact know) that his agreementto accept this sum would bring section 60 into operation. If that mattertoo had needed explanation to the plaintiff there might have been somereason to think that no explanation of it was given.
In my opinion it was in the highest degree likely that the necessaryexplanation was in fact given ; it was something that one would expectto have been done in the ordinary course of business. Surely it wasunlikely that so large a sum as Rs. 2,520 would be paid out withoutordinary care. The learned Judge failed to refer to the plaintiff’s evi-dence that he was told that the money was given to him for treatment.If this evidence was true then the Company’s officers would have beendeliberately deceiving the plaintiff and inducing him to sign the documentD3 on the faith of a false statement. If the plaintiff’s evidence on thispoint was false, it follows that an explanation had in fact been given tohim and that some two years later he chose to give to the court aninoorrect version of that explanation. Had the learned Judge directed
TAMBIAH, J.—Karunaratna v. Amarisa
hie mind to this aspect of the matter I doubt whether he would havereached the conclusion which carries with it the implication that adeliberate deceit was practised on the plaintiff.
For these reasons I would set aside the decree appealed against anddismiss the action with costs in both courts.
L. B. db Silva, J.—I agree
CEYLON MOTOR TRANSIT CO. LTD ., Appellant, and S. M. DAVID, Respondent