Suing for loss of business in Sivagangga cluster might not work, say lawyers

Residents in Kuala Sanglang undergo screening for Covid-19 following the outbreak of cases from the Sivagangga cluster. (Bernama pic)

GEORGE TOWN: Lawyers have expressed doubt over a group’s plan to sue the owner of a nasi kandar restaurant in Kedah identified as the originator of the Sivagangga Covid-19 cluster, saying it would be more feasible for those directly infected to take legal action against the person who wilfully spread the disease.

Gurdial Singh Nijar said a case could be made for wilful negligence, given sufficient evidence.

“If you can show causation and wilful neglect, you can claim for medical costs and demand damages for no salary as a result of the injury,” he told FMT.

The group of NGOs led by the Consumers Association of Kedah had planned to sue the restaurant owner for causing Kedahans hardship and affecting businesses.

Gurdial said legal action could not be initiated based solely on economic losses.

However, if a person had suffered physical loss leading to economic hardship, the lawsuit might stick, he said.

“Say a car knocks you down and you break a bone. You will have to be admitted to hospital for a month, depriving you of the chance to work and earn money.

“Then you could claim a consequential loss,” he said. “The suit cannot be based on economic losses alone.”

Leong Wai Hong agreed, saying it would be difficult for the NGOs to make their case.

“The clearest case is for an infected person to sue the spreader, provided that he or she can prove it,” he added.

He said anyone planning to take legal action in this case would first have to prove their standing to do so.

He cited a case in 1988 where Lim Kit Siang sought to declare as invalid a letter of intent issued by the government to UEM Engineers (M) Bhd for the construction of the North-South Expressway.

Leong said the Supreme Court ruled that Lim had no locus standi as he failed to show that he had suffered special damage peculiar to him as a result of the construction.

“Locus standi is a procedural hurdle that the group must face,” he said. “Only then can we delve into the merits of the case.”