Management Corporation Strata Title Plan No 2297 v Seasons Park Ltd (No 2)

JudgeChoo Han Teck J
Judgment Date30 July 2004
Neutral Citation[2004] SGHC 160
Citation[2004] SGHC 160
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Published date04 August 2004
Plaintiff CounselLeo Cheng Suan and Teh Ee-Von (Infinitus Law Corporation)
Defendant CounselChristopher Chuah Chee Kian, Elly Tham and Lee Hwai Bin (Wong Partnership)
Subject MatterCivil Procedure,Originating processes and pleadings,Management corporation suing in contract,Whether management corporation must identify each party to the contract.,Land,Strata titles,Management corporation,Representative actions,Whether management corporation could sue developers on behalf of subsidiary proprietors,Land Titles (Strata) Act (Cap 158, 1999 Rev Ed) s 116.,Tort,Negligence,Defence of independent contractor,Whether developers accused of direct and personal negligence could rely on defence.,Indemnity,Whether management corporation entitled to indemnity from developers.

30 July 2004

Judgment reserved.

Choo Han Teck J:

1 This was an action commenced by Management Corporation Strata Title Plan No 2297 (“the plaintiff”), the management corporation of the condominium at 497 Yio Chu Kang Road known as Seasons Park Condominium, against the developers, Seasons Park Ltd (“the defendant”). The action was based on contract and tort, and also on “an indemnity”. The claim was made on behalf of all the subsidiary proprietors in respect of defects and damage to the common property as well as individual units of the sub-proprietors. The list of defects was a long one and included leakage and seepage of water, the debonding of tiles, soil settlement, loose grille covers, obstruction of refuse chutes, and various other items. These defects were identified by the firm of building surveyors engaged by the plaintiff to study and review the alleged problems in the condominium.

2 Mr Christopher Chuah Chee Kian, counsel for the defendant, made an application to have some questions of law to be tried as preliminary issues. Mr Leo Cheng Suan, counsel for the plaintiff, strongly objected and I thus permitted the trial to proceed. The first witness for the plaintiff was a subsidiary proprietor. Her evidence related virtually to her personal complaint of water seepage, which she testified she once thought was caused by her dogs’ poor toilet training. In any event, she said that her claim for about $5,000 was strictly in respect of repair costs to her own apartment unit. At that point, Mr Chuah made a renewed application to have the issues of law tried first. Counsel submitted that the three questions of law will determine substantially all, if not all, the issues at trial. He is right in saying that a point of law need not be one that will dispose of the entire trial. If it will lead to a disposal of a substantial part of the trial then the court may, at its discretion, order a trial of the legal issues first. In this case, even Mr Leo agreed that the case will extend well beyond the five days allocated for the trial. Realistically, if all the factual issues are disputed, the trial might require about 20 to 30 days. The legal issues will, in any event, have to be determined. In these circumstances, I ordered the three questions posed by Mr Chuah to be tried as preliminary issues.

3 The three questions are as follows:

(a) Whether the plaintiffs are entitled to sue on behalf of all subsidiary proprietors of units who have entered into sale and purchase agreements as pleaded in para 26 of the statement of claim[1] read with paras 3 and 4 of the document entitled “Yet Further and Better Particulars” dated 25 June 2004[2] and if so, which purchasers.

(b) Whether paras 18, 19, 20, 24 and 25 of the defence filed in the proceedings would be a defence to the plaintiffs’ claims in tort as pleaded.

(c) Whether the plaintiffs are entitled to seek a declaration of an indemnity from the defendants against claims by subsidiary proprietors as pleaded in para 30 of the statement of claim.

4 Mr Leo maintained that the plaintiff had two bases in support of its right to sue. First he relied on s 116(1) of the Land Titles (Strata) Act (Cap 158, 1999 Rev Ed) which provides as follows:

Where all or some of the subsidiary proprietors of the lots in a subdivided building are jointly entitled to take proceedings against any person or are liable to have proceedings taken against them jointly (any such proceedings being proceedings for or with respect to common property), the proceedings may be taken by or against the management corporation as if it were the subsidiary proprietors of the lots concerned.

This is a provision empowering the management corporation to sue or be sued. Without it, it might be questionable whether the management corporation, as a separate legal entity, is entitled to exercise any right to sue that belongs to a subsidiary proprietor and, conversely, whether it is liable to a suit in respect of which the real and otherwise proper party would be the subsidiary proprietor. It is similar to other statutory provisions such as that empowering an incorporated company to sue and be sued in its own name. Section 116(1) does not, on its plain meaning, confer or create any cause of action. The power to “take proceedings against any person” is contingent upon a right or a cause of action. Hence, the management corporation may sue (on behalf of the subsidiary proprietors) a defendant in contract only where there is a cause of action in contract that is available to the subsidiary proprietors. The same reasoning applies in tort or to any other cause of action. Mr Leo’s reliance on the words “where all or some” in the opening line of s 116(1) might have been the source of his misconstruction of this provision.

5 Counsel submitted that since “common property was badly maintained … this would entitle all the subsidiary proprietors to sue the defendant in contract.” Mr Chuah argued that s 116(1) empowers the management corporation to sue only in tort. I do not think that the plain words should be read as restrictively as that. If a cause of action accrues in contract to any or all subsidiary proprietors, the management corporation should be entitled to sue in their stead. However, it does not follow that every subsidiary proprietor will sue just because he has a right to do so.

6 This brings me to Mr Leo’s second ground. Mr Leo’s second basis in support of the plaintiff’s right to sue was the resolution passed by the members at their second annual general meeting held on 31 March 2002 that expressly authorised the plaintiff to sue. The 49 members who attended unanimously...

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2 cases
  • Management Corporation Strata Title Plan No 2297 v Seasons Park Ltd
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 29 March 2005 the respondent in relation to the action instituted by the appellant on account of defects appearing in the common property (see [2004] SGHC 160). The 2 The appellant is the management corporation of a condominium called the Seasons Park Condominium (“the condominium”) which was develope......
  • Yess Marina Pte Ltd v Liu Wen Wey and Another
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 22 February 2006
    ...recently reiterated by the High Court in the local case of Management Corporation Strata Title Plan No. 2297 v Seasons Park Ltd (No. 2)[2004] SGHC 160 where the plaintiffs’ claim was similarly premised on negligence. Choo Han Teck J “The second issue involves the question as to whether the ......
6 books & journal articles
  • Contract Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2004, December 2004
    • 1 December 2004 paras 9.90 onwards under ‘Damages in a three-party “black-hole” case’. Capacity 9.52 In MCST Plan No 2297 v Seasons Park Ltd (No 2)[2004] SGHC 160, the High Court held that s 116(1) of the Land Titles (Strata) Act (Cap 158, 1999 Rev Ed) empowered the management corporation of a building,......
  • Land Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2005, December 2005
    • 1 December 2005
    ...The High Court ruled in favour of the developer in respect of the preliminary issues (see MCST Plan No 2297 v Seasons Park Ltd (No 2)[2004] SGHC 160) and the management corporation appealed. 17.49 The Court of Appeal in Seasons Park made it clear from the outset that in an action under s 11......
  • Case Note
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2017, December 2017
    • 1 December 2017
    ...for this phrase revealed seven hits, with the first in 2004 in Management Corporation Strata Title Plan No 2297 v Seasons Park Ltd (No 2)[2004] SGHC 160. A similar search on Bailii revealed only four hits, with the first appearance in 2011 in Tinseltime Ltd v Eryl Roberts[2011] BLR 515. 68 ......
  • Building and Construction Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2005, December 2005
    • 1 December 2005
    ...two cases that had sparked the most comments within the industry in the previous year, namely MCST Plan No 2297 v Seasons Park Ltd (No 2)[2004] SGHC 160 (HC), MCST Plan No 2297 v Seasons Park Ltd[2005] 2 SLR 613 (CA); and Prosperland Pte Ltd v Civic Construction Pte Ltd[2004] 4 SLR 129 (HC)......
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