Lim Boon Chong v B Sivaraj

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeLiu Zeming
Judgment Date07 September 2022
Neutral Citation[2022] SGDC 207
Citation[2022] SGDC 207
Published date15 September 2022
Hearing Date07 September 2022
Docket NumberDistrict Court Suit No 2899 of 2020 (Summons No 2628 of 2022)
Plaintiff CounselNagarajah Maniam (S L Law Chambers)
Defendant CounselChan Chin Ling (Dentons Rodyk & Davidson LLP)
Subject MatterCivil Procedure,Discontinuance,Reinstatement application
Deputy Registrar Liu Zeming (delivering the judgment of the court ex tempore):

This is the Plaintiff’s application to reinstate the action pursuant to Order 21 r 2(8) of Rules of Court (2014 Rev Ed) (“ROC 2014”).

The action was commenced on 10 December 2020. It relates to the Plaintiff’s claim for personal injuries arising out of a road traffic accident which happened on 30 September 2018. On 26 January 2021, parties consented to interlocutory judgment being entered against the Defendant, for 80% of the damages to be assessed and costs (the “IJ”). The IJ was extracted on 17 March 2021. Thereafter, the Plaintiff obtained directions for assessment of damages, pursuant to which parties filed their respective lists of documents on 18 May 2021. That was the last step taken in this action. On 19 May 2022, the action was deemed-discontinued pursuant to Order 21 r 2(6) of ROC 2014. On 12 August 2022, this application for reinstatement was filed. The relevant timelines are as follows:

Filing of writ of summons 10 December 2020
Entry of IJ 26 January 2021
Extraction of IJ 17 March 2021
Filing of summons for directions 29 April 2021
Filing of lists of documents 18 May 2021 “Trigger Date”
Anniversary of filing of lists of documents 17 May 2022 “Guillotine Date”
Date on which action is deemed-discontinued 19 May 2022
Filing of application for reinstatement 12 August 2022

The Plaintiff did not file any affidavit in support of his application. His lawyer (the “PC”) filed an affidavit instead and gave the following reasons for the failure to take any step in the proceedings after the Trigger Date:

I shall now narrate the lapse. The file was handled by a staff of the firm from November 2021 to end of June 2022. Due to the COVID-19 situation and the pandemic that was prevalent with some members of the staff having contracted with COVID-19, from September 2021 to June 2022, we adopted the work from home (WFH) policy in line with the government’s advisory to prevent and reduce the impact of the infection amongst staff and their family members.

In doing so, this Plaintiff’s file was in the care of the staff who was also working on that basis, and she too had contracted COVID-19. As a result, she was not in the office most of the time and therefore did not have access to the physical file. The particular staff took longer than usual to recover and was on prolonged medical leave. Thereafter we got to learn that members of her family also got the virus one after the other. As [sic] result she had no one to look after her child and therefore went on long leave to care for [sic] child. Subsequently her health took a toll, and she was on long leave. The firm had reminded her of her long absenteeism from work. Due to overwhelm of case files being unattended from April to June 2022, the staff subsequently resigned in end June 2022. She did not inform us of the Plaintiff’s claim being lapsed due to auto-discontinuance on 18 May 2022. It only came to light after I had pull out all the files under the staff’s care and went through each and every one of them, that I discovered the lapse for the Plaintiff’s file/suit to my utter shock and disappointment.

As the only other lawyer in my office, I had to attend to all the court matters and the other files managed by my other staff in the firm as well as, doing all the court litigation work of the firm….Because of the lapse by the staff, who overlooked this file, the file was not brought to my attention earlier for me to have acted on it. This went beyond my control with the most unfortunate twist of date of the Plaintiff’s action being lapsed.

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