Thursday, July 7, 2011

HDB resident stung by bee from 'monster' hive in condo: Who should pay?

HDB resident stung by bee from 'monster' hive in condo: Who should pay?

STOMPer Dezmand Kang was stung by a bee from a nearby hive which he described as a "monster hive".

The STOMPer notified the town council of the danger on Jun 30, but the hive was only removed on Jul 5 by contractors engaged by the condominium management, because it was in the condo compound.

The STOMPer wrote:

"There was a huge bee hive on condo property.

"I notified the town council on Jun 30, but the condo management only engage pest control on Jul 5 to solve the problem.

"They removed the hive, but the bees are still hanging around the area.

"I was stung by one of the bees on Jul 3 at home.

"If I did not bring the matter up to the town council, the condo management might not have taken any action to address this danger.

"Which agency should I notify for more immediate action?

"Who should pay for my medical fees?

"The bees are a threat to residents staying in the entire block. It's a monster hive, and not a small hive."

HDB resident stung by bee from 'monster' hive in condo: Who should pay?
HDB resident stung by bee from 'monster' hive in condo: Who should pay?
HDB resident stung by bee from 'monster' hive in condo: Who should pay?
HDB resident stung by bee from 'monster' hive in condo: Who should pay?
HDB resident stung by bee from 'monster' hive in condo: Who should pay?

I'm not quite sure what to make of this complaint. It's true that people have the right to seek redress and compensation if they feel that they have been hurt as a result of incompetence or mismanagement, but at same time, this might give rise to a litigious culture, where people sue one another for the most trivial of grievances.

While a span of 5 days might seem a little long for action to be taken to remove the beehive, it has to be noted that the complainant notified his town council, which in turn had to shoulder the responsibility of informing the management of the condominium, which then was tasked with contacting the pest control company. Naturally, this chain of communication takes a while, and it would be unrealistic to expect the town council to say, trespass and handle the beehive problem without prior approval from the condominium management. Yes, bureacratic red tape can be an annoying waste of time and resources, but these so-called proper channels of communication are not secret. Perhaps the person could have gone straight to the condominium management instead.

Besides, it's just a single bee sting. I don't wish to downplay the possible danger of bee stings, especially since the giant honeybee (Apis dorsata) is said to be especially aggressive in defending its colonies, but unless you are severely allergic to bee stings, I don't see what the ruckus is all about. If a person had been attacked by a swarm in his HDB neighbourhood (an area managed by the town council), or if it had been shown that one of the parties involved had been dragging its feet in resolving the problem, then I believe that there may be grounds for compensation. But an isolated bee sting that may have resulted from harassment of a bee that wandered into someone's home hardly makes for an adequate case. Many bees fly into homes all over Singapore. Some escape, some are killed, while others manage to sting people. I'm sure most people would just accept that it was bad luck, get treatment, and move on. Should this particular incident be treated any differently?

People get injured by animals in many different ways every day. Some are minor temporary discomforts (e.g. ant bites), while others have more severe long-term consequences (e.g. bites by venomous snakes, or mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and malaria). The fact is that we cannot completely prevent these incidents from occurring. To implicitly accuse town council or condominium management of negligence and require them to give compensation for utterly trivial injuries makes a mockery of the whole system, and also overlooks one's role in the chain of events. More often than not, it's simply a matter of a person being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and while the consequences may occasionally be tragic, it cannot be denied that the individual's behaviour or responses may contribute in part to the incident.

To conclude, I'm not suggesting that people should just suck it up and accept their ill luck in serious cases, but I think a single bee sting just doesn't warrant such outrage. To paraphrase William Shakespeare, the man doth protest too much, methinks.