Published on September 26th, 2022 | by Subhash Nair0
Man Wins RM2,980 Pothole Related Claim Against Kajang Municipal Council
This legal suit could open a can of worms for pothole damage in Malaysia.
A Malaysian man has won a legal claim against the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj) amounting to a claim of RM2,980 in compensation for pothole related damage. The man, Fahrurrazi Hamid, was driving along Jalan Sungai Long at night in September 2020 when his car hit a pothole. As a direct result of this incident, his car’s rear left tyre and rim was damaged. The car had to be towed as well, costing an additional RM200.
Besides compensation for towing the car, Mr Fahrurrazi also claimed the cost of changing all four rims (to a set of used rims) and one tyre amounting to RM2600. This is because he was unable to find a single identical replacement for his broken rim in the used market and it cost him less to replace all four rims with a used set than to find a single new replacement. He also successfully claimed the camber adjustment cost of RM180. He was, however, unable to claim for changing an additional tyre besides the one that had been damaged.
Before taking MPKj to court, the man filed for a claim through the municipal council’s insurance and received only RM1,430 from Takaful Malaysia Berhad. This compensation was for one tyre and one rim. He tried to appeal this amount but was turned down. Even the Tribunal for Consumer Claims was unable to help him as there was no jurisdiction. He therefore filed for a small claim in the Kajang magistrates’ court and represented himself in the case.
After explaining his circumstances to the court, the Magistrate, Noor Firdaus Rosli found MPKj fully liable for the damage caused. The court did not agree with MPKj’s argument that Mr Fahrurrazi was driving recklessly and caused the incident. They also did not agree that MPKj had taken the necessary action to maintain all roads under its purview. Finally, the court also disagreed that the claimant was unjustly enriched by changing all four rims after only one was damaged.
“Looking at the photos produced by the plaintiff, there was indeed a hole… As to whether the plaintiff contributed to the damage, my finding is negative. The incident took place at night, and any reasonable man could not be expected to notice and sway their vehicle to avoid the hole,” Magistrate Noor Firdaus said.
The Magistrate also cited a SAE Technical Paper on the effect of wheel design on aerodynamic drag on passenger vehicles. He found that having rims of multiple designs would only attract unexpected consequences and is unheard of, at least by a reasonably man. The only part of the claim that failed was the 2nd tyre, which had not been justified.
What Does This Mean For The Rest Of Us?
Local councils are not immune to claims and legal suits. If your vehicle has been damaged by actions or inactions related to your local council, know your rights! Gather as much photographic and documentary evidence as you can, seek legal advice and explore your legal avenues. With enough evidence, the council is likely to give you compensation through their insurance company. However, if this is not satisfactory, this case shows us that the courts may favour your claim if the argument and evidence is strong enough.
For local councils, it looks like the consequences for ignoring poorly maintained roads are finally coming. We hope this does encourage more victims of poorly maintained roads to come forward and show councils the true cost of their inaction to financially pressure them to do a better job at maintenance.