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Decision reserved on Erwiana’ $800k civil claim vs abusive employer

05 December 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao
Erwiana outside court with case worker Cynthia Tellez

Indonesian former domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih was back in court on Dec 4 as she pressed for more than $800,000 civil claim for damages against her abusive erstwhile employer.

The hearing, originally set for three days, lasted only half a day after District Court Judge Winnie Tsui refused a bid by defendant Law Wan Tung, who appeared without a lawyer, for a court review of a ream of documents she presented from her trial in 2015.

Law, who was jailed for six years for the assault on Sulistyaningsih, claimed the documents would show the helper’s injuries were not as serious as she had claimed.

Sulistyaningsih is seeking damages totaling more than $809,430 for loss of income, physical and psychological injuries, as well as other losses she had suffered for about seven months of almost daily physical assaults from Law.

Law during her trial in 2015

Law said the court documents showed inconsistencies in the medical reports that could help reduce the amount of damages she would have to pay.

Tsui asked Law why she did not bring the bundle despite a letter sent to her by the court on Nov 17, informing her about the hearing and advising her to bring the court bundle.

Law said she did not speak English well and was not given a lawyer to defend herself in the civil case.

She accused the Hong Kong government of being unfair to her while favoring foreigners, implying that while her Legal Aid application was denied,  Sulistiyaningsih was given a lawyer to pursue her case.

“The Hong Kong government has been unfair to me. Why does the foreigner get a legal aid while I cannot?” she asked.

Law asked the court to consider the documents that she had brought as evidence to prove she should pay less in damages, but Judge Tsui rejected her application.

Sulistiyaningsih’s lawyer Tony Ko said Law was just trying to derail the trial.

The employer, a former beauty salon worker who married an investment banker, was convicted in February 2015 at the District Court of committing multiple assaults against Sulistyaningsih, and not paying her wages or giving her rest days.

On Ko’s application for costs for the half-day hearing, the judge ordered Law to $10,000 on or before Dec 18.

The trial began at 11:30am with Sulistyaningsih taking the witness stand to talk about the  effects of the physical abuse that she suffered from Law.

The helper said that she still consults a psychiatrist until now, and would tremble and feel nervous each time she remembered the violence committed against her.

Ko said that in calculating the damages, he looked at two streams of cases: contact injuries and psychological injuries. In the first case, damage claims ranged from $150,000 to $200,000 while in the second, it was around $250,000.

Asked if she had something to say, Law told the court Sulistiyaningsih arrived at her home with a disease in her legs which she would always scratch. Because of that, she had difficulty walking and would always fall or faint, said Law.

The jailed housewife added that Sulistiyaningsih’s posts on Facebook in 2014 even showed her looking happy while attending a wedding party of a family member.

Judge Tsui reserved her decision on the case.                                                                        
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