Ginsin Holdings Pte Ltd v Tan Mui Khoon trading as Chan Eng Soon Service and Another

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeJudith Prakash J
Judgment Date28 October 1996
Neutral Citation[1996] SGHC 245
Citation[1996] SGHC 245
Defendant CounselTan Cheng Yew (Tan Cheng Yew & Partners)
Published date19 September 2003
Date28 October 1996
Plaintiff CounselGerald Chong (David Ong & Partners)
Docket NumberSuit No 185 of 1996
Subject MatterDistress for rent,Whether such action possible under the Distress Act,Landlord and Tenant,Aggrieved tenant's recourse,ss 5 & 16 Distress Act (Cap 84),Action for damages for illegal distress

This decision involves an interesting point relating to the law of distress.

Sometime in 1995, the first defendant applied to the district court pursuant to s 5 of the Distress Act (Cap 84) (the Act) for leave to issue a writ of distress against certain goods belonging to the plaintiffs which were stored in the first defendant`s warehouse. The first defendant was granted the leave he sought and the goods were subsequently seized pursuant to the writ of distress by the bailiff of the subordinate courts. The goods were sold at an auction held on 17 January 1996 for $45,000. According to the plaintiffs, they found out about the distress on the day of the auction itself.

Rather than applying under s 16 of the Act to discharge the writ of distress, on 30 January 1996, the plaintiffs commenced this action. On an ex parte application made by them the same day, the following order was granted in their favour:

That the Bailiffs of the Subordinate Courts be directed to hold the proceeds from the auction sale held at No 8 Yung Ho Road, Singapore on 17 January 1996 in relation to the goods seized pursuant to the Writ of Distress No. 535 of 1995 or any part thereof until after the trial of this action or until further order or direction by this Honourable Court.

Although phrased in a positive manner, this order was in effect a restraining order in that it prevented the bailiff of the subordinate courts from releasing the proceeds of the auction of the goods to the first defendant.

The plaintiffs filed their statement of claim in this action on 27 February. In it, they alleged that in 1993 pursuant to a memorandum of understanding (the MOU) they had rented warehouse space from the second defendant. In 1995, the second defendant had, without the knowledge of the plaintiffs, assigned his rights under the MOU to the first defendant. The plaintiffs continued, however, to deal with the second defendant only. Subsequently, the second defendant agreed that the amounts payable by the plaintiffs in respect of the warehouse space could be off-set against money that he had borrowed from them and the plaintiffs therefore stopped paying the storage charges. Thereafter the first defendant issued the writ of distress for unpaid storage charges and seized and auctioned the goods.

The plaintiffs` cause of action as originally formulated in their writ was for damages for breach of agreement and/or conversion. However, their statement of claim amplified the endorsement by adding an alternative allegation that the writ of distress obtained by the first defendant was illegal or wrongful or improper in that it was obtained contrary to the Act and that the plaintiffs had thereby suffered loss and damages being, basically, the loss of the goods seized. This manner of formulation of the plaintiffs` claim made it clear that their cause of action against the first defendant was an action for damages for illegal distress.

On 15 May 1996, the first defendant applied for the order relating to the proceeds of the auction sale to be set aside. The main submission made on behalf of the first defendant was that the pleadings did not disclose a cause of action against him on which the plaintiffs could rely and therefore there was no serious question to be tried. Accordingly, the injunction order should be discharged.

According to 13 Halsbury`s Laws of England (4th Ed) para 368, an illegal distress is one which is wrongful at the very outset, that is to say either there was...

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9 cases
  • Challenger Technologies v Dennison Transoceanic Corporation
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 30 July 1997
    ...(1839) 8 Ad & E 449; 112 ER 909 (refd) Fitzalan v Nicholson (1896) 13 WN (NSW) 51 (folld) Ginsin Holdings Pte Ltd v Tan Mui Khoon [1996] 3 SLR (R) 500; [1997] 1 SLR 553 (folld) Glinski v McIver [1962] AC 726 (folld) Herniman v Smith [1938] AC 305 (refd) Hicks v Faulkner (1878) 8 QBD 167 (fo......
  • Comfort Management Pte Ltd v Afco East Pte Ltd and others
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 29 June 2012 an action for malicious prosecution. I discussed Chop Chye Hin Chong in Ginsin Holdings v Tan Mui Khoon t/a Chan Eng Soon Service [1996] 3 SLR(R) 500 (“Ginsin Holdings”). In Ginsin Holdings, I held that there is no common law action for wrongful or illegal distress of goods in Singapore ......
  • South East Enterprises (Singapore) Pte Ltd v Hean Nerng Holdings Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 15 March 2013
    ...(1806) 6 Esp 71; 170 ER 833 (folld) Gawler v Chaplin (1848) 2 Exch 503; 154 ER 590 (folld) Ginsin Holdings Pte Ltd v Tan Mui Khoon [1996] 3 SLR (R) 500; [1997] 1 SLR 553 (folld) Heng Chyu Kee v Far East Square Pte Ltd [2001] 3 SLR (R) 651; [2002] 1 SLR 158 (refd) Hewitt v Spiers and Pond (L......
  • Heng Chyu Kee v Far East Square Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 20 November 2001
    ...[1929] 2 KB 222 (refd) Dovey Enterprises v Guardian Assurance Public [1993] 1 NZLR 540 (refd) Ginsin Holdings Pte Ltd v Tan Mui Khoon [1996] 3 SLR (R) 500; [1997] 1 SLR 553 (folld) Metro Mechanical Ltd v Neil Day Motors Ltd [1995] DCR 232 (refd) South Union Co Ltd v Seng Hin Ltd [1971-1973]......
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