a. The Federal Court decisions on the interpretation of Section 31 of the SOCSO Act were upheld, specifically that where an employee is receiving compensation for an employment injury under the Act, Section 31 bars any other claims for the same employment injury under written law and common law (See Tan Peng Loh v Lee Aik Fong & Anor  1 MLJ 74 and Che Noh Bin Yacob v Seng Hin Rubber (M) Sdn Bhd  1 MLJ 80).
b. The recent Court of Appeal case of Rajendiran A/L Manickam & Anor v Palmamide Sdn Bhd  9 CLJ 510, which departed from the Federal Court cases above, are confined to claims for aggravated or exemplary damages arising from alleged gross negligence of the employer.
c. The definition of "employment injury" under the SOCSO Act is wide enough to include personal injury caused by negligence.
The Applicant was an employee of the Respondent who suffered an injury allegedly arising from the course of his employment. Following this, the Applicant made an application to the Social Security Organisation ("SOCSO") for compensation under the SOCSO Act for said employment injury and was granted the same.
The Applicant filed a civil suit against the Respondent in the Sessions Court for general and special damages arising out of the injury allegedly caused by the Respondent's negligence, breach of contract, and/or breach of statutory duties pursuant to the Occupational Safety And Health Act 1994. The claim for special damages included, among others, loss of income, and loss for pain & suffering. The Respondent filed an application to strike out the Applicant's claim on the basis that pursuant to Section 31 of the SOCSO Act, the Applicant is not entitled to initiate a claim for damages against the Respondent in respect of the same employment injury for which he is receiving compensation from SOSCO.
Section 31 of the SOCSO Act reads as follows:
"31. Liability of employer and his servant.
An insured person or his dependants shall not be entitled to receive or recover from the employer of the insured person, or from any other person who is the servant of the employer , any compensation or damages under any other law for the time being in force in respect of an employment injury sustained as an employee under this Act:
Provided that the prohibition in this section shall not apply to any claim arising from motor vehicle accidents where the employer or the servant of the employer is required to be insured against Third Party Risks under Part IV of the Road Transport Act 1987 [Act 333]."
The Respondent's striking out application was allowed by the Sessions Court and subsequently upheld by the High Court upon the Applicant's appeal.
Decision of the Court of Appeal
In seeking leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal, the Applicant argued that the definition of "employment injury" under the SOCSO Act does not include personal injury to an employee caused by negligence and further relied on the recent Court of Appeal case of Rajendiran A/L Manickam & Anor v Palmamide Sdn Bhd  9 CLJ 510 which departed from Federal Court decisions upholding a strict interpretation of Section 31 of the SOCSO Act.
In opposing leave to appeal, the Respondent contended that the artificial distinction proposed by the Applicant was not legally sustainable and more crucially, that the Court of Appeal case of Rajendiran Manickam (supra) is confined to claims for aggravated and exemplary damages arising from gross negligence of which neither was being claimed by the Applicant.
The Court of Appeal agreed with the submissions of the Respondent and unanimously dismissed the Applicant's motion for leave to appeal. The Court of Appeal held that there is no prima facie error by the Courts below and that there is no merit in the Applicant's motion.
This decision is important as it limits the application of Rajendiran Manickam to claims for aggravated or exemplary damages arising from gross negligence of the employer and thus confirms that the Federal Court cases of Tan Peng Loh v Lee Aik Fong & Anor  1 MLJ 74 and Che Noh Bin Yacob v Seng Hin Rubber (M) Sdn Bhd  1 MLJ 80, which strictly applied the statutory bar under Section 31 of the SOCSO Act, remains valid and binding.
Whilst the Court of Appeal accepted the distinguishing factor from the case of Rajendiran Manickam, there were additional arguments canvassed before the Court of Appeal in support of the position that Rajendiran Manickam was decided erroneously. In Rajendiran Manickam, the Court of Appeal discussed the repeal of Section 42 of the SOCSO Act and the introduction of Section 28A of the Civil Law Act 1956 with the effect of making inroads into Section 31 of the SOCSO Act. The Parliamentary debates, which were not before the Court of Appeal in Rajendiran Manickam, have adequately addressed these issues surrounding the intended effect of Section 31.
The Parliamentary debates illustrate that Section 31 of the SOCSO Act was debated extensively and whilst it has remained essentially the same since 1979, the only difference now is the introduction on 1 May 1997 of the sole exception to permit claims arising from motor vehicle accidents under Part IV of the Road Transport Act 1987 pursuant to the Employees' Social Security (Amendment) Act 1997. Upon balancing the rights of the employees and employer, such as that the employees may invariably face hardships in proving their claim in common law and the employers have contributed towards the SOCSO compensation available to the employee, Parliament clearly intended Section 31 to be complete bar of any action for damages or compensation against the employer under any other law including common law.
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