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TRTC seeks damages from Cheng Chieh
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-07-03 11:53 AM
Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC) has asked for damages of more than NT$20.61 million from Cheng Chieh, who stands accused of murdering four riders on one of the system’s trains on May 21 this year. Cheng Chieh filed an objection to the request on Wednesday, however, and now TRTC must pay an arbitration fee of NTS193,456 in order to obtain a court hearing on the case.

Legal experts say that Cheng Chieh is legally an adult, thus his parents are not liable for compensation for their son’s action. If the younger Cheng does not have any property in his name, TRTC could find itself out of the arbitration fee if the case comes to court and the firm is unable to claim compensation.

TRTC says that in the ten-day period following the May 21 slashing incident, from May 21 to May 30, ridership on Taipei’s MRT lines plunged by a total of 945,000 from expected levels, amounting to a loss of income of approximately NT$20.61 million for the system.

After being informed of the court’s notice last week, Cheng Chieh immediately asked his parents to seek the assistance of a lawyer. They were told that the court’s Civil Division will notify TRTC that it needs to pay the arbitration fee of nearly NT$200,000 in order to proceed to a court hearing. If TRTC is willing to pay the fee, Cheng will be formally charged for the damages; if TRTC declines to pay the fee, the charges will be dismissed.

A lawyer explains that if Cheng Chieh had not raised an objection, TRTC would have needed to pay a fee of only NT$500 and could have asked the National Tax Administration to determine whether Cheng Chieh has any property under his name, and any property discovered could have been attached as reparation for damages.

Another source says that if Cheng Chieh does not hold any property and TRTC pays the arbitration fee, then pursues the case and wins in court, it will obtain a "verdict in favor of the debt obligation," which is little more than a statement of intent. Still, some observers feel that TRTC could pay the arbitration fee and go on to press formal charges against Cheng.

Should TRTC decide to pay the fee, a decision in the case will ultimately be up to a judge. If TRTC wins the case but Cheng does not have any property, however, it will have little recourse in recovering its losses. If Cheng is convicted and performs any labor while in custody, TRTC can take action to attach his “salary” for his work. That would still only amount to a tiny fraction of what TRTC is asking for in its case.

Other legal experts suggest that TRTC might choose simply to wait until Cheng is indicted by the district court. They can then file for civil claims as part of the criminal suit against Cheng without the need to pay an arbitration fee.

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