1 crore compensation upheld by SC in accident case

Rajasthan State Road Transport Corpn.vs. Alexix Sonier & Anr.


The claimant, Alexix Sonier, was an American citizen. He was participating in a ‘Peace March’ along with the citizens of various other countries from Ahmedabad to Rajghat. On 08.01.1988, while participating in the march along with a group of other persons, between Jaipur and Delhi, a bus of the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corpn which was driven rashly and negligently, at a very high speed, came and struck the claimant from behind. He fell down on the road and became unconscious and sustained injuries. He was taken to the Sawai Man Singh Hospital, Jaipur where it was found that among other injuries he had also received head injury. Three surgical operations were performed, however, he did not regain consciousness. Then he was shifted to a Hospital in Ahmedabad but his condition did not improve. Later he was shifted by air to the United States of America, under medical supervision of the doctors. The claimant, through his next friend, Mrs. Dominique Sonier, his mother, filed a petition claiming a total sum of Rs.2,02,36,000/- as compensation along with interest at the rate of 18% per annum from the date of filing of the claim petition till the actual date of payment.

The Tribunal held that the accident had occurred on account of negligence on the part of the driver of the Corporation. The Tribunal, on the basis of evidence on record, awarded damages of Rs. 1,25,15,002.14/-. It further awarded interest at the rate of 6 per cent per annum with effect from the date of presentation of the claim petition, that is, 07.07.1988 and Rs. 1,16,411.69/- towards the expenses incurred and the amount paid by the Corporation for the treatment etc. in India to the claimant. The High Court, on appreciation of evidence on record, upheld the findings of the Tribunal that the driver of the bus of the Corporation was negligent and driving the bus rashly and it is not a case of contributory negligence, however, the High Court deleted the amount of US$125,348.01 under the head of special damages.

On the question as to whether the accident in question was a result of contributory negligence or the driver of the bus of the Corporation was driving rashly and speedily, the Supreme Court concurred with the finding of the high court that the bus was driven rashly and negligently and at a very fast speed. Therefore, the question of accident being a result of contributory negligence does not arise. On the issue of the amount of damages/award in respect of Medi-Cal, which was deleted by the High Court, the Supreme Court observed that in the State of California, there is a Scheme under which persons who are not covered under any insurance scheme like claimant are extended medicare facilities for which no payment is to be made by such persons and only the amount received as reimbursement has to be handed over to the Medi-Cal Department. The Court found that the Medi-Cal Department has already incurred expenses for the treatment of the claimant and since it will be difficult to keep a track, as to whether the amount awarded under this head would be paid over to the Medi-Cal Department, it was held that the High Court was justified in modifying the award of the Tribunal by disallowing US$125,348.01 under the category ‘Special Damages’ relating to the Medi-Cal. The Supreme Court further held that the claimant is entitled for a sum of Rs. 10 lakhs plus interest at the rate of 6 % per annum from the date of presentation of the claim petition till the date of actual payment towards expenses to be incurred for keeping an attendant for the rest of his life to look after him. Hence the Supreme Court held that the amount awarded by the Tribunal as modified by the High Court and further modified by the Supreme Court by awarding a sum of Rs. 10 lakhs towards the cost of helper/attendant was appropriate and did not call for any further enhancement.