Fong Khim Ling v Tan Teck Ann

JurisdictionSingapore
Judgment Date10 February 2014
Date10 February 2014
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 38 of 2013 (Summons No 3140 of 2013)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Fong Khim Ling (administrator of the estate of Fong Ching Pau Lloyd, deceased)
Plaintiff
and
Tan Teck Ann
Defendant

[2014] SGCA 11

Sundaresh Menon CJ

,

Chao Hick Tin JA

and

VKRajah JA

Civil Appeal No 38 of 2013 (Summons No 3140 of 2013)

Court of Appeal

Civil Procedure—Appeals—Leave—Appellant appealing against decision of High Court judge hearing appeal from decision of district judge—Interpretation of s 34 (2) (a) Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed) —Whether notice of appeal should be struck out on ground that ‘amount in dispute, or the value of the subject-matter’ before High Court was less than $250,000 and leave had not been obtained—Section 34 (2) (a) Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed)

The appellant was the administrator of the estate of the deceased, who passed away following a traffic accident that involved the respondent. The appellant obtained interlocutory judgment for damages to be assessed, with liability agreed in the ratio of 95:5 in favour of the appellant. The parties also signed a memorandum pursuant to s 23 of the Subordinate Courts Act (Cap 321, 2007 Rev Ed), giving the District Court jurisdiction to hear the action notwithstanding that the total sum claimed by the appellant for loss of dependency and special damages was $379,923.33 (on a 100% basis).

Following an assessment of damages, the deputy registrar awarded the appellant dependency losses of $236,160, special damages of $25,166.85 and costs of $25,000. Both parties appealed to a district judge in chambers, who reduced the award for dependency losses to $158,355 and affirmed the costs award. The appellant appealed to a High Court judge and repeated his claim for $354,756.48 (on a 100% basis) for loss of dependency. The High Court judge dismissed the appeal.

The appellant filed a notice of appeal against the High Court judge's decision, and the respondent filed a summons to strike out the notice of appeal on the ground that the appellant had not satisfied the monetary threshold in s 34 (2) (a) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed) (‘the SCJA’) and required leave to appeal.

Held, dismissing the application:

(1) Under the pre-2010 case-law, there were two divergent threads of authority that applied, depending on whether the appeal was from the Subordinate Courts to the High Court or from the High Court to the Court of Appeal. The separate approaches adopted were attributable to the different operative phrases in each section, ie, the ‘amount in dispute or the value of the subject-matter’ in the previous s 21 (1) of the SCJA and the ‘amount or value of the subject-matter at the trial’ in the previous s 34 (2) (a) of the SCJA: at [18] .

(2) The Supreme Court of Judicature (Amendment) Act 2010 (Act 30 of 2010) created a unified regime for determination of the threshold amounts for appeals to both the High Court and Court of Appeal. The present ss 21 (1) (a) and 34 (2) (a) of the SCJA contained the same operative phrase - ‘the amount in dispute, or the value of the subject-matter, at the hearing before [the lower court] ’: at [21] .

(3) Having regard to Parliament's intent in enacting the 2010 amendments to the SCJA and adopting a purposive interpretation, the operative words in s 34 (2) (a) must be read as referring to the amount that was claimed before the High Court. The two disjunctive limbs in the operative phrase should also be purposively construed as alternative formulations that described the same thing: at [26] and [27] .

(4) When a claim originated in the High Court, the relevant amount was quantified by reference to the initial claim before the High Court, whether or not that claim was made at a trial or hearing. This followed from the plain words of s 34 (2) (a): at [29] .

(5) When a claim originated in the Subordinate Courts and was subsequently heard by the High Court in its appellate capacity, the relevant amount was quantified by reference to the amount or value of the subject matter of the appeal when it was heard by the High Court. The question in each case was what the maximum amount sought before the High Court was for the item or items of claim which were still in dispute, without making allowance for any sums that had been awarded by the court below: at [30] and [31] .

(6) On the facts of the present appeal, the monetary threshold of $250,000 was crossed as the relevant amount was the appellant's claim before the High Court for loss of dependency, ie, the sum of $337,018.66 (on a 95% basis) which the appellant had claimed that he ought to have been awarded. Leave to appeal was therefore not required: at [32] and [35] .

Abdul Rahman bin Shariff v Abdul Salim bin Syed [1999] 3 SLR (R) 138; [1999] 4 SLR 716 (refd)

Ang Swee Koon v Pang Tim Fook Paul [2006] 2 SLR (R) 733; [2006] 2 SLR 733 (refd)

Augustine Zacharia Norman v Goh Siam Yong [1992] 1 SLR (R) 746; [1992] 1 SLR 767 (distd)

Fong Khim Ling v Tan Teck Ann [2013] SGHC 104 (refd)

Herbs and Spices Trading Post Pte Ltd v Deo Silver (Pte) Ltd [1990] 2 SLR (R) 685; [1990] SLR 1234 (refd)

Hua Sheng Tao v Welltech Construction Pte Ltd [2003] 2 SLR (R) 137; [2003] 2 SLR 137 (refd)

Ong Wah Chuan v Seow Hwa Chuan [2011] 3 SLR 1150 (refd)

Spandeck Engineering (S) Pte Ltd v Yong Qiang Construction [1999] 3 SLR (R) 338; [1999] 4 SLR 401 (refd)

Tan Chiang Brother's Marble (S) Pte Ltd v Permasteelisa Pacific Holdings Ltd [2002] 1 SLR (R) 633; [2002] 2 SLR 225 (refd)

Teo Eng Chuan v Nirumalan V Kanapathi Pillay [2003] 4 SLR (R) 442; [2003] 4 SLR 442 (refd)

Virtual Map (Singapore) Pte Ltd v Singapore Land Authority [2009] 2 SLR (R) 558; [2009] 2 SLR 558 (refd)

Subordinate Courts Act (Cap 321, 2007 Rev Ed) s 23

Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 1985 Rev Ed) s 21 (1)

Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed) ss 21 (1) (a) , 34 (2) (a) (consd) ;ss 21 (1) , 34 (2 A) , 34 (2 A) (c)

Supreme Court of Judicature (Amendment) Act 2010 (Act 30 of 2010)

Edwin Chua (instructed) (Lawrence Chua & Partners), Raphael Louis (Teo Keng Siang & Partners) for the appellant

Patrick Yeo Kim Hai, Lim Hui Ying and Timothy Ng Eu Jin (Khattar Wong LLP) for the respondent.

Chao Hick Tin JA

(delivering the grounds of decision of the court):

1 This was an application in Summons No 3140 of 2013 (‘SUM 3140/2013’) to strike out the notice of appeal in Civil Appeal No 38 of 2013 (‘CA 38/2013’) on the ground that the appellant (‘the Appellant’) had failed to obtain leave to appeal pursuant to s 34 (2) (a) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed) (‘SCJA’). At the conclusion of the hearing, we dismissed the application. As this is the first time that the particular issue raised in this case has come before this court following the amendments to s 34 (2) (a) in 2010, we now give our grounds of decision.

Background facts

2 The Appellant is the administrator of the estate of Fong Ching Pau Lloyd (‘the deceased’). The deceased was killed in a traffic accident on 10 December 2008. His motorcycle had collided with a bus driven by the respondent Tan Teck Ann (‘the Respondent’).

3 On 1 November 2010, the Appellant obtained interlocutory judgment for damages to be assessed, with liability agreed in the ratio of 95:5 in favour of the Appellant.

4 The parties subsequently signed a memorandum (‘the Memorandum’) pursuant to s 23 of the Subordinate Courts Act (Cap 321, 2007 Rev Ed), giving the District Court jurisdiction to hear the action notwithstanding that the total sum claimed by the Appellant for loss of dependency and special damages was $379,923.33 (on a 100% basis). Clause 5 of the Memorandum stated:

5. Both the Plaintiff and the Defendant agree and abide to be bound by the District Court's judgment if the damages awarded to the Plaintiff exceed the District Court's limited [sic] of award of S$250,000.00. It is also agreed that the right of appeal (if any) of the District Court's judgment by both parties under any written law is not prejudiced.

5 The assessment of damages took place before District Judge Constance Tay sitting as a deputy registrar (‘the Deputy Registrar’). The Appellant claimed $354,756.48 for the parents' loss of dependency plus $25,166.85 in special damages. Only the former head of damage was disputed. On 11 May 2012, the Deputy Registrar awarded the Appellant total damages of $261,326.85 plus interest and costs of $25,000. Damages for loss of dependency were quantified at $236,160 (on a 100% basis).

6 Both the Appellant and Respondent appealed against the Deputy Registrar's decision to a district judge in chambers (vide Registrar's Appeal No 85 of 2012 and Registrar's Appeal No 86 of 2012 (‘RA 86/2012’) respectively). On 17 October 2012, District Judge Leslie Chew (‘the District Judge’) dismissed the Appellant's appeal and allowed the Respondent's appeal, reducing the award for loss of dependency to $158,355 (on a 100% basis). The District Judge also affirmed the costs order of $25,000.

7 The Appellant appealed to the High Court against the District Judge's decision in Registrar's Appeal Subordinate Courts No 185 of 2012 (‘RAS 185/2012’). RAS 185/2012 stated:

Take notice that the abovenamed Plaintiff intends to appeal against the decision of the District Judge in Chambers given on...

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5 cases
  • Munshi Rasal v Enlighten Furniture Decoration Co Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 10 Marzo 2021
    ...this regard was dispelled by this court in Fong Khim Ling (administrator of the estate of Fong Ching Pau Lloyd, deceased) v Tan Teck Ann [2014] 2 SLR 659. In that case, it was held (at [30]) that when a claim originates in the District Court and is subsequently heard by the High Court in it......
  • Paul Patrick Baragwanath and another v Republic of Singapore Yacht Club
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 15 Diciembre 2015
    ...2010 and the Court of Appeal’s decision in Fong Khim Ling (administrator of the estate of Fong Ching Pau Lloyd, deceased) v Tan Teck Ann [2014] 2 SLR 659 (“Fong Khim Ling”). At [21] of Fong Khim Ling, the Court of Appeal cited the second reading of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Amend......
  • Tuan Kong Beo (Teochew) Temple v Tian Kong Buddhist Temple
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 6 Abril 2018
    ...the High Court and the Court of Appeal in Fong Khim Ling (administrator of the estate of Fong Ching Pau Lloyd, deceased) v Tan Teck Ann [2014] 2 SLR 659 (“Fong Khim Ling”) and Paul Patrick Baragwanath and another v Republic of Singapore Yacht Club [2016] 1 SLR 1295 (“Baragwanath”). I set ou......
  • Paul Patrick Baragwanath and another v Republic of Singapore Yacht Club
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 15 Diciembre 2015
    ...2010 and the Court of Appeal’s decision in Fong Khim Ling (administrator of the estate of Fong Ching Pau Lloyd, deceased) v Tan Teck Ann [2014] 2 SLR 659 (“Fong Khim Ling”). At [21] of Fong Khim Ling, the Court of Appeal cited the second reading of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Amend......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Civil Procedure
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2014, December 2014
    • 1 Diciembre 2014
    ...to appeal was defective and the appeal was not properly brought before the High Court. 8.22 The case of Fong Khim Ling v Tan Teck Ann[2014] 2 SLR 659 considered the issue of the meaning of amount in dispute in s 34(2)(a) of the SCJA when a claim originates in the State Courts (then Subordin......

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