'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned': Woman loses negligence lawsuit against psychiatrist ex-lover
- A High Court judge dismissed Ms Serene Tiong's claims of medical negligence against her former lover, Dr Chan Herng Nieng
- She sued him for allegedly making her addicted to Xanax during their relationship from 2017 to 2018
- Justice Tan Siong Thye found that she repeatedly changed her evidence and was not reliable
- However, the judge called Dr Chan’s conduct “debauched” and said he had “serious and grave character defects”
- Dr Chan and Ms Tiong broke up when she found that he and another doctor had text exchanges about their sexual exploits with other married women
SINGAPORE — A woman who had an extramarital affair with her psychiatrist has failed in her lawsuit against him, after she sued him for negligence for allegedly getting her hooked on pills to manage her anxiety.
High Court judge Tan Siong Thye on Tuesday (July 19) described Ms Serene Tiong Sze Yin’s lawsuit as her “latest episode in her plot for revenge” against Dr Chan Herng Nieng.
In dismissing Ms Tiong's claims for S$250,000 in damages for medical negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, Justice Tan found her testimony to be highly unreliable and that her claims were an abuse of process.
Tuesday’s ruling was the latest in a string of legal disputes arising from Ms Tiong’s affair with Dr Chan.
The psychiatrist and Ms Tiong, a senior business development manager at Precious Medical Centre, began their affair in January 2017. She was still married while he was not.
Dr Chan, who runs his own private practice at Capital Mindhealth Clinic, gave Ms Tiong Xanax tablets for her anxiety during their relationship.
The pair broke up around May 2018 after Ms Tiong found explicit WhatsApp messages between Dr Chan and his close friend, colorectal surgeon Julian Ong. Both doctors boasted about their sexual exploits with other married women.
Ms Tiong lodged a complaint with the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) and emailed her complaint to other doctors, writing that Dr Chan and Dr Ong were colluding to take advantage of vulnerable female patients.
Dr Ong then sued her for defamation. He lost and lodged an appeal with the High Court.
In October 2020, High Court judge See Kee Oon found that both men did not collude to take sexual advantage of Ms Tiong, but said that they could have come together to target a female patient of Dr Ong’s.
Despite ruling in Dr Ong’s favour, Justice See cautioned that he and Dr Chan had “no moral victory” to claim and chided them for their blatant treatment of women as sex objects.
Justice Tan echoed this on Tuesday, writing in his 104-page grounds of decision that Dr Chan’s exploitation of Ms Tiong and other women “for his own perverse desires is debauched, degenerate and highly deserving of censure”.
The judge added that there was "no true winner" in the long-running saga.
CHANGED EVIDENCE TO FIT HER CASE
In her current negligence lawsuit against Dr Chan, Ms Tiong claimed that he gave her an addictive drug and that he told her he was committed to a long-term and exclusive sexual relationship with her.
She also alleged that she suffered a “mental and emotional breakdown” when she discovered his relationships with other women.
She argued that as her de facto doctor, Dr Chan owed her a duty of care to ensure that she would not become addicted to Xanax.
Ms Tiong also claimed to have suffered side effects from the alleged high dosages of drugs given to her, which was evident in how she confronted him at his clinic in front of employees and patients in June 2018.
In his defence, Dr Chan argued that other psychiatrists continued to prescribe Xanax to Ms Tiong after they broke up and their communications did not support her assertion that she suffered side effects from taking the drug.
The key issues during the trial included how many tablets Dr Chan had given to Ms Tiong and how frequently he gave her the tablets.
She asserted that he gave her 280 or 330 tablets from February 2017 to May 2018, while he said that he gave her just 14 tablets for short-term use in May 2018.
Justice Tan found Dr Chan’s version of events to be more credible, ruling that Ms Tiong’s evidence on this “crucial pillar” of the case was “gravely inconsistent and irreconcilable”.
Ms Tiong “vacillated repeatedly” on how many Xanax tablets Dr Chan gave her, Justice Tan found. Contemporaneous records from Singapore General Hospital also refuted her claim that Dr Chan gave her 160 tablets from May 2017 to March 2018.
Ms Tiong later claimed that these inconsistencies were due to memory impairment or loss due to her Xanax consumption.
Justice Tan described this explanation as a “double-edged sword” because it suggested that her recollection of events and court testimony were unreliable.
Given that the number of Xanax tablets was the heart of her claim for medical negligence, the judge said that her conflicting evidence proved fatal and spoke volumes about her reliability as witness.
Justice Tan wrote: "At one point, Ms Tiong herself seemed aware of the persistently conflicting nature of her evidence, agreeing during cross-examination that she was re-engineering her evidence on the quantity of Xanax to fit her case.”
NO BREACH OF CARE
Justice Tan then found that as a result, Dr Chan did not breach his duty of care to Ms Tiong. The judge also rubbished her claim that she suffered from Xanax dependency.
Another medical expert testified that the risk of physical dependency on the drug was very low, even if Dr Chan had prescribed the highest quantity of Xanax — about two to three tablets a week from February 2017 to March 2018.
The expert further refuted Ms Tiong’s claims that she suffered adverse side effects after more than a year of consuming Xanax. The expert said that such side effects would last only four to five hours.
Justice Tan also accepted Dr Chan’s lawyers’ argument that in any case, no reasonable psychiatrist would have continued prescribing the drug to her if she had side effects.
“Indeed, the adage that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned best describes the vitriolic actions of Ms Tiong. This case is the latest episode in Ms Tiong’s plot for revenge against the one who spurned her.Justice Tan Siong Thye”
On another point, he noted that Ms Tiong was willing to continue a long-term relationship with Dr Chan if he pledged to marry her.
This meant that the harm she purportedly suffered from in realising that he did not intend to have a long-term, exclusive relationship with her was, at best, minimal.
As for the amount of losses, Justice Tan said that Ms Tiong’s lawyer belatedly raised that Dr Chan was liable for S$250,000 worth of damages, on the basis that she requires lifelong treatment for Xanax addiction.
She had failed to prove that she suffered harm of this amount as a result of Dr Chan’s prescription.
The case should not have been heard in the High Court, which has a minimum civil jurisdiction of S$250,000, the judge added.
NO TRUE WINNER
The High Court judge also agreed with the Court of Appeal’s findings in August 2020 that Ms Tiong was “clearly on a quest for revenge”.
The apex court had dismissed her lawsuit against the chief executive officer of HC Surgical Specialists for breaching his duties as a company director by acquiring a stake in Dr Ong’s private clinic.
Justice Tan wrote: “In my view, Ms Tiong displayed a willing readiness to compromise the court process for her own personal vendetta… She even admitted that she had not calculated the precise number of Xanax tablets provided to her before filing her claim for medical negligence and only did so the night before the third day of the trial.
“The final death knell came when Ms Tiong affirmed that she would not have commenced the present suit if she were in a relationship with Dr Chan.”
“Although I have ruled against Ms Tiong, Dr Chan has borne, and will continue to bear, the shame of having his wanton and depraved behaviour aired in public for all to see.Justice Tan Siong Thye”
All in all, this still did not excuse or vindicate Dr Chan’s behaviour, Justice Tan said.
The psychiatrist is now appealing against a decision by SMC to suspend him from medical practice for five months from February this year.
Justice Tan said: “Dr Chan’s disgraceful use of women, including Ms Tiong, as his sex objects and the disturbing pride with which he gloated about his sexual conquests in the WhatsApp exchanges with Dr Ong suggest that he is a person with serious and grave character defects.
“Dr Chan’s conduct in exploiting Ms Tiong and other women for his own perverse desires is debauched, degenerate and highly deserving of censure.”
The judge added: “Indeed, the adage that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned best describes the vitriolic actions of Ms Tiong. This case is the latest episode in Ms Tiong’s plot for revenge against the one who spurned her.”
When Dr Chan wanted to end the relationship, Ms Tiong had demanded a branded Cartier watch and S$150,000 from Dr Chan. He then reported her to the police for extortion.
The police issued Ms Tiong a written warning in lieu of prosecution for attempted extortion in January 2020.
Justice Tan noted: “Ultimately, no true winner has emerged from this entire debacle.
“Although I have ruled against Ms Tiong, Dr Chan has borne, and will continue to bear, the shame of having his wanton and depraved behaviour aired in public for all to see.”
Ms Tiong was represented by lawyer Ong Ying Ping, while Dr Chan was defended by a legal team — Ms Rebecca Chew, Mr Darren Lim and Mr Benedict Tedjopranoto — from Rajah & Tann.
Related topicscourt Serene Tiong Chan Herng Nieng Julian Ong medical negligence psychiatrist extramarital affair lawsuit
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