Cheong Wei Chang v Lee Hsien Loong

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeValerie Thean J
Judgment Date05 Oct 2018
Docket NumberSuit No 489 of 2018 (Summons No 2809 of 2018) and Originating Summons No 1071 of 2018

[2018] SGHC 217

High Court

Valerie Thean J

Suit No 489 of 2018 (Summons No 2809 of 2018) and Originating Summons No 1071 of 2018

Cheong Wei Chang
and
Lee Hsien Loong and another matter

The plaintiff in Suit No 489 of 2018/defendant in Originating Summons No 1071 of 2018 in person;

Sivakumar Ramasamy and Gabriel Lim (Attorney-General's Chambers) for the defendant in Suit 489/2018/plaintiff in OS 1071/2018;

Sui Yi Siong (Eversheds Harry Elias LLP) as Young Amicus Curiae.

Case(s) referred to

1985 Sawridge Trust v Alberta (Public Trustee) 2017 ABQB 548 (refd)

AB v John Wyeth & Brother Ltd (1997) 8 Med LR 57 (refd)

AG v Tee Kok Boon [2008] 2 SLR(R) 412; [2008] 2 SLR 412 (refd)

AG v Tham Yim Siong [2017] 5 SLR 1206 (refd)

Attorney-General v Barker [2000] 1 FLR 759 (refd)

Bhamjee v Forsdick [2004] 1 WLR 88 (refd)

Chee Siok Chin v Minister for Home Affairs [2006] 1 SLR(R) 582; [2006] 1 SLR 582 (folld)

Chua Choon Lim Robert v MN Swami [2000] 2 SLR(R) 589; [2000] 4 SLR 494 (folld)

Commonwealth Trading Bank v Inglis (1974) 131 CLR 311 (refd)

Dykun v Odishaw 2001 ABCA 204 (refd)

Ebert v Venvil [2000] Ch 484 (refd)

Goh Nellie v Goh Lian Teck [2007] 1 SLR(R) 453; [2007] 1 SLR 453 (folld)

Grepe v Loam (1887) 37 Ch D 168 (refd)

Hok v Alberta 2016 ABQB 651 (refd)

Lai Swee Lin Linda v AG [2016] 5 SLR 476 (refd)

Mahajan v Department of Constitutional Affairs [2004] EWCA Civ 946 (refd)

Manharlal Trikamdas Mody v Sumikin Bussan International (HK) Ltd [2014] 3 SLR 1161 (folld)

Manolakis v Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions [2009] SASC 193 (refd)

Nalpon Zero Geraldo Mario, Re [2013] 3 SLR 258 (folld)

Ng Yat Chi v Max Share Ltd [2005] HKCU 69 (refd)

Roberto Building Material Pte Ltd v Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp Ltd [2003] 2 SLR(R) 353; [2003] 2 SLR 353 (folld)

Royal Bank of Scotland NV, The v TT International Ltd [2015] 5 SLR 1104 (folld)

Secretary for Justice v Ma Kwai Chun [2005] HKCU 1808 (refd)

Setiadi Hendrawan v OCBC Securities Pte Ltd [2001] 3 SLR(R) 296; [2001] 4 SLR 503 (folld)

Star City Pty Ltd v Tan Hong Woon [2002] 1 SLR(R) 306; [2002] 2 SLR 22 (folld)

Tham Yim Siong v Tan Chuan-Jin HC/Bankruptcy No 1051 of 2016 (20 May 2016) (refd)

Turf Club Auto Emporium Pte Ltd v Yeo Boong Hua [2017] 2 SLR 12 (folld)

Velissaris v Dynami Pty Ltd [2013] VSCA 299 (refd)

Von Risefer v Permanent Trustee Co Pty Ltd [2005] QCA 109 (refd)

Wee Soon Kim Anthony v Law Society of Singapore [2001] 2 SLR(R) 821; [2001] 4 SLR 25 (folld)

Wellmix Organics (International) Pte Ltd v Lau Yu Man [2006] 2 SLR(R) 117; [2006] 2 SLR 117 (refd)

Legislation referred to

Attorney-General (Additional Functions) Act (Cap 16A, 2017 Rev Ed) ss 3, 4

Civil Law Act (Cap 43, 1999 Rev Ed) s 5(2)

Government Proceedings Act (Cap 121, 1985 Rev Ed) ss 19(3), 24(3)

Legal Profession Act (Cap 161, 2009 Rev Ed)

Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) s 193

Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2014 Rev Ed) O 18 r 19

Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed) s 74(1) (consd); ss 74(2), 74(3), 74(4), 74(5)

Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (UK) r 3.11

High Court Ordinance (Cap 4) (HK) s 27

Supreme Court Act 1981 (c 54) (UK) s 42

Vexatious Actions Act 1896 (c 51) (UK)

Vexatious Litigants Act 1981 (Qld)

Civil Procedure — Striking out — Inherent powers — Plaintiff filing statement of claim that was substantially similar to earlier statement of claim that had been struck out for disclosing no reasonable cause of action — Whether statement of claim should be struck out — Whether court had inherent power to restrain plaintiff from filing further similar actions — Whether court should exercise inherent power to restrain plaintiff from filing further similar actions

Courts and Jurisdiction — Vexatious litigants — Plaintiff filing statement of claim that was substantially similar to earlier statement of claim that had been struck out for disclosing no reasonable cause of action — Whether plaintiff “habitually and persistently” instituted vexatious legal proceedings — Section 74 Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed)

Facts

The plaintiff (“Mr Cheong”) initially filed Suit No 125 of 2018 (“Suit 125”), alleging that the defendant (“Mr Lee”) had caused him to suffer a wide variety of problems, including failed job interviews and health issues. The statement of claim enclosed several volumes of supporting documents. Suit 125 was struck out for the reason that it disclosed no reasonable cause of action. Mr Cheong had based his claim on contract, but there were no facts that suggested that there was a contract between the parties. There was also no basis to suggest that the vicissitudes of life faced by Mr Cheong were caused by Mr Lee.

A day after the extracted order of court in Suit 125 was served on Mr Cheong, he filed Suit No 489 of 2018 (“Suit 489”). Suit 489 was largely similar to Suit 125, and enclosed almost identical supporting documents. The Attorney-General applied to strike out Suit 489 and also applied for an order that Mr Cheong be restrained from filing similar actions without the leave of the High Court, pursuant to the inherent jurisdiction of the court. The Attorney-General made a further application under s 74 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed) (“SCJA”) to restrain the plaintiff from commencing any legal proceedings in relation to any matters arising out of Suit 125 and Suit 489. This further application would only be pursued in the event that the restraining application pursuant to the inherent jurisdiction of the court did not succeed.

Held, granting the application and striking out the plaintiff's claim:

(1) There was no factual basis, nor any legal premise for Mr Cheong's claims. Suit 489 disclosed no reasonable cause of action, was vexatious and would render a fair trial of the action impossible: at [20].

(2) Suit 489 was also res judicata in the form of cause of action estoppel. There were four requirements for cause of action estoppel: identity of parties, identity of causes of action, the court pronouncing the earlier judgment had to be a competent court and the judgment had to be final and conclusive on the merits. All four requirements were met in the present case. There was no need for a full trial in order for a decision to be final and conclusive on the merits. Finality for the purposes of res judicata referred to a determination made by a court of a party's liability or his rights or obligations that left nothing else to be judicially determined. In submitting almost exactly the same statement of claim, with exactly the same supporting documents before the court, Suit 489 was obviously a direct attack upon, and sought to reverse the earlier decision of, the court. Thus, cause of action estoppel squarely applied and Suit 489 was an abuse of process of the court: at [22] to [25].

(3) There were two primary requirements to invoke the courts inherent power: (a) there could be no statutory exclusion of the inherent power; and (b) there had to be exceptional circumstances where there was need for the court to use its inherent powers in order for justice to be done or injustice to be averted: at [66].

(4) There was no statutory exclusion of the inherent power sought to be invoked. The power was procedural in nature and was not new. The order sought was merely an application of the well-established power to prevent anticipated harm through quia timet injunctions, in combination with the equally well-established power for the court to protect its own processes: at [69] to [71].

(5) There was a genuine need for the courts to devise flexible means to address an intermediate range of abusive conduct in a proportionate and nuanced manner. There were significant areas of distinction between an order under s 74 of the SCJA and the order sought pursuant to the inherent powers of the court. First, there was no other mechanism for a private party to avoid being harassed by vexatious litigants through the institution of multiple fresh proceedings. Second, s 74(4) of the SCJA required the publication of the individual's name in the Gazette, declaring and labelling the individual as a “vexatious litigant”. Third, pursuant to s 74(3), there was no appeal from an order refusing leave for orders made under s 74, whereas there was no such requirement for the order pursuant to the court's inherent power. Fourth, the precise remedy pursuant to the court's inherent power could be fashioned in a nuanced and appropriate manner in light of the circumstances. Lastly, in line with the general flexibility of the inherent powers of the court, the threshold for granting the order might be lower than the “habitual and persistent” threshold found in s 74: at [72].

(6) There was a need that was specific to the circumstances of the present case. A perusal of the documents filed and an observation of Mr Cheong's behaviour during the hearings indicated that there were underlying issues that hindered Mr Cheong's ability to realise the vexatious and futile nature of his actions. He was also unable to listen to legal advice and the counsel of his concerned family members who supported the application of the Attorney-General. Without the exercise of the court's inherent power, injustice would result, in the use of state and court resources, and the toll on the other members of Mr Cheong's caring family. At the same time, this was not a case appropriate for s 74 of the SCJA. While there was no “magic number” as to how many proceedings have to be brought before a litigant's conduct would constitute habitual and persistent conduct, the court was hesitant to classify Mr Cheong's conduct as being of similar gravity and scale as previous recipients of orders under s 74 of the SCJA: at [73] and [74].

(7) The Attorney-General's powers under the statutory regime was the final step in an escalating series of measures that could be taken to address the problem of a vexatious litigant. The order sought existed as an...

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4 cases
  • Biley v Sherwood Ford Sales Limited, 2019 ABQB 95
    • Canada
    • Alberta Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta
    • 11 February 2019
    ...74-81, leave to appeal to SCC refused, 38123 (31 January 2018); Peoples Trust Company v Atas, 2018 ONSC 58 at para 41; Chang v Loong, [2018] SGHC 217. The Court’s inherent jurisdiction provides a superior alternative to determine whether court access restrictions are warranted, and what for......
  • Bissky v Macleod, 2019 ABQB 179
    • Canada
    • Alberta Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta
    • 18 March 2019
    ...(4 May 2018); Peoples Trust Company v Atas, 2018 ONSC 58 at para 41; Ng Yah Chi v Max Share Ltd, [2005] HKCFA 9; and Chang v Loong, [2018] SGHC 217. [10] Hok v Alberta, 2016 ABQB 651, sets out the modern approach to court access restrictions issued under this Court’s inherent jurisdiction. ......
  • Labonte v Alberta Health Services, 2019 ABQB 92
    • Canada
    • Alberta Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta
    • 12 February 2019
    ...74-81, leave to appeal to SCC refused, 38123 (1 January 2019); Peoples Trust Company v Atas, 2018 ONSC 58 at para 41; Chang v Loong, [2018] SGHC 217. [17] Hok v Alberta, 2016 ABQB 651 sets out the modern approach to court access restrictions issued under this Court’s inherent jurisdiction. ......
  • Callow v West Vancouver Teacher's Association (Local School District Number 45), 2019 ABQB 236
    • Canada
    • Alberta Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta
    • 4 April 2019
    ...(UK CA); Bhamjee v Forsdick & Ors (No 2), [2003] EWCA Civ 1113 (UK CA); Ng Yah Chi v Max Share Ltd, [2005] HKCFA 9; Chang v Loong, [2018] SGHC 217; Hok v Alberta, 2016 ABQB 651 at paras 14–25, 273 ACWS (3d) 533, leave refused 2017 ABCA 63, leave to appeal to SCC refused, 37624 (2 Novemb......

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