Chua Keng Mong v Hong Realty Pte Ltd and Others

JurisdictionSingapore
Judgment Date28 October 1994
Date28 October 1994
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 157 of 1993
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Hong Realty Pte Ltd
Plaintiff
and
Chua Keng Mong
Defendant

[1994] SGCA 60

Yong Pung How CJ

,

M Karthigesu JA

and

L P Thean JA

Civil Appeal No 157 of 1993

Court of Appeal

Bailment–Bailees–Duties–Bailor's goods damaged as result of works undertaken at warehouse–Whether bailee discharged duty of care by entrusting works in warehouse to subcontractor it believed competent–Whether bailee in breach of duty of care–Contract–Contractual terms–Exclusion clauses–Bailee seeking to rely on exemption clauses in contract of bailment–Whether exemption clauses could operate to relieve bailee of liability

The plaintiff/respondent had stored his goods in the warehouse of the defendant/appellant. The period of bailment covered in the contract of bailment between parties was from 1 May 1986 to 30 April 1987.

The appellant subsequently commenced works which involved the cutting of a section of the existing overhead water supply pipe situated in the storage area of the warehouse and the installation of a “T” joint. It engaged a main contractor which employed a subcontractor. On Saturday 20 December 1986, two workmen in the employ of the subcontractor entered the storage area to carry out the work of installing a “T” joint in a section of the existing overhead water supply pipe. They told the maintenance officer in charge of the warehouse that the main valve to the main water supply line would be shut and the water drained out of the system before they cut a section out of the overhead water supply pipe.

When the maintenance officer closed the warehouse on that day, he noticed the two open ends of the overhead water supply pipe from which a section had been cut out. He was assured by the two workmen that the main valve to the main water supply line had been shut tight.

When the warehouse was re-opened on Monday 22 December 1986, the area under the cut ends of the overhead water supply pipe was flooded. Some of the respondent's goods were soaked.

The respondent sued the appellant in tort alleging that it or its servants or agents were negligent in the care and custody of the goods. Alternatively the respondent alleged that the appellant had breached the contract of bailment. The appellant denied negligence and in any event claimed that it was saved from liability by the exemption clause contained in the contract of bailment.

Witnesses gave evidence at trial to the effect that it was not prudent to rely solely on the draining of water from the system and the shutting off of the main valve where water supply pipes had been cut leaving exposed two cut ends without at least having pails under the cut ends to catch the dripping water. The trial judge awarded damages to the respondent. The appellant appealed against that decision.

Held, dismissing the appeal:

(1) The appellant's duty of care as bailees or warehousemen was more than simply entrusting the work undertaken in the storage area of the warehouse to the subcontractor whom it had no reason to suspect was anything but competent. Its duty was to take reasonable care to see that the place where the respondent's goods were kept was fit and proper for that purpose and to protect the goods against unexpected danger should any arise. In failing to take the necessary precautions to obviate water dripping out of the open cut ends of the pipe in the water supply system in the storage area of the warehouse apart from shutting off the main valve, the appellant failed to render the storage area in the warehouse, over the weekend of 20 to 22 December 1986, a fit and proper place for the storage of the respondent's goods: at [15].

(2) Exemption clauses must be construed strictly and this meant that their application must be restricted to the particular circumstances the parties had in mind at the time they entered into the contract. When the respondent entered into the contract of bailment with the appellant, it could not have been in their contemplation that the exemption clauses would apply in circumstances other than in which the storage area in the warehouse was prior to the intervention of the works undertaken on 20 December 1986. Since the water damage to the respondent's goods occurred between 20 and 22 December 1986, a period during which the works undertaken in the storage area of the warehouse had intervened, thereby rendering the storage area unfit as a proper place for the storage of goods, the exemptions could not operate to relieve the appellant of liability: at [17] and [19].

Brabant & Co v Thomas Mulhall King [1895] AC 632 (folld)

Canada Steamship Lines Ltd v The King [1952] AC 192; [1952] 1 All ER 305; [1952] 1 Lloyd's Rep 1 (folld)

Morris v C W Martin & Sons Ltd [1966] 1 QB 716; [1965] 2 All ER 725 (refd)

Searle v Laverick (1874) LR 9 QB 122 (folld)

Ravi Chelliah and Chua Eng Chiang (Cooma, Lau & Loh) for the appellant

Shantini Ramachandra (Wee Ramayah & Partners) for the respondent.

Judgment reserved.

M Karthigesu JA

(delivering the grounds of judgment of the court):

1 This is an appeal from the judgment of Goh Joon Seng J who awarded damages to the respondent in the sum of $224,503.84 with interest at 6% per annum from the date of the damage to his goods (20 December 1986) to the date of judgment (25 October 1993). At the material time the respondent was a supplier and exporter of wallpaper and carpets and had stored his goods in the warehouse of the appellants at 351 Upper Bukit Timah Road where they were damaged by water in...

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14 cases
  • Sun Technosystems Pte Ltd v Federal Express Services (M) Sdn Bhd
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 8 November 2006
    ...Pte Ltd [2005] 2 SLR 744 at [9] (reference may also be made to the decision of this court in Hong Realty (Pte) Ltd v Chua Keng Mong [1994] 3 SLR 819 as well as the oft-cited Malaysian Privy Council decision of Port Swettenham Authority v TW Wu and Co (M) Sdn Bhd [1979] AC The appellant’s ar......
  • Zurich Insurance (Singapore) Pte Ltd v B-Gold Interior Design & Construction Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
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    ...a liability for tapping, a subject matter which they never thought about. By analogy with [Hong Realty (Pte) Ltd v Chua Keng Mong [1994] 3 SLR 819], the application of Art 8.5(a) (also an exclusion clause) must be restricted to the particular circumstances the parties had in mind at the tim......
  • Singapore Telecommunications Ltd v Starhub Cable Vision Ltd
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 6 February 2006
    ...The principle that exemption clauses must be construed strictly entails, as this court held in Hong Realty (Pte) Ltd v Chua Keng Mong [1994] 3 SLR 819 (“Hong Realty”) at 825, [19], that the application of such clauses must be restricted to the particular circumstances the parties had in min......
  • Kay Lim Construction & Trading Pte Ltd v Soon Douglas (Pte) Ltd
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 10 September 2012
    ...9 Exch 341; 156 ER 145 (refd) Homburg Houtimport BV v Agrosin Pte Ltd [2004] 1 AC 715 (refd) Hong Realty Pte Ltd v Chua Keng Mong [1994] 2 SLR (R) 90; [1994] 3 SLR 819 (refd) Hotel Services Ltd v Hilton International Hotels (UK) Ltd [2000] BLR 235 (refd) Kenwell & Co Pte Ltd v Southern Ocea......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Contract Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2005, December 2005
    • 1 December 2005
    ...… The principle that exemption clauses must be construed strictly entails, as this court held in Hong Realty (Pte) Ltd v Chua Keng Mong[1994] 3 SLR 819 (‘Hong Realty’) at 825, [19], that the application of such clauses must be restricted to the particular circumstances the parties had in mi......

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