Ong Hien Yeow and another v Central Chambers LLC and another

Judgment Date15 October 2010
Date15 October 2010
Docket NumberSuit No 461 of 2007 (Registrar's
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Ong Hien Yeow and another
Central Chambers LLC and another

[2010] SGHC 305

Kan Ting Chiu J

Suit No 461 of 2007 (Registrar's Appeals Nos 79 and 82 of 2009)

High Court

Damages—Assessment—Damages claimed against plaintiffs' solicitors for failed purchase of real property caused by late exercise of option to purchase—Real property subsequently re-released on market for sale—Whether damages to be assessed as at time of solicitors' breach of duties, time of re-release of property on market, or time of hearing for assessment of damages

Damages—Mitigation—Whether plaintiffs' failure to purchase replacement property due to lack of financial resources operated against their claim on grounds of remoteness of damage or failure to mitigate

The plaintiffs had obtained a grant of an option to purchase from a developer of a condominium unit which they had intended to purchase. Under the terms of the option, the plaintiffs had to exercise the option by 17 April 2007 in order to purchase the unit. The defendants were engaged by the plaintiffs as solicitors to act for the plaintiffs in the proposed purchase of the unit. The defendants, however, failed to exercise the option on the plaintiffs' behalf on time. The developer refused to accept late exercise of the option and the unit was subsequently re-released on the market for sale.

The plaintiffs took several steps in their attempt to mitigate their loss, including, inter alia, looking for other prospective units in the same development and requesting the defendants and/or the defendants' insurers to confirm that they would bear the increase in price for an alternative unit purchase. No confirmation was received and, as a result, no replacement purchase in the same development was done. The plaintiffs eventually filed their claim against the defendants for the difference between the purchase price of the original unit and the “current market price of equivalent units in the same development”. Interlocutory judgment was entered against the defendants with their consent, with damages to be assessed.

At the assessment of damages hearing before the assistant registrar, the issue arose as to when should be the proper time at which the damages claimed are to be assessed. The assistant registrar ruled that damages were to be assessed as at the time of the breach and awarded damages accordingly. Both parties appealed to set aside the assistant registrar's award.

Held, allowing the appeal and cross-appeal and remitting the case to the assistant registrar for re-assessment of damages:

(1) In determining the quantum of damages where the contract was one of sale, the general rule was that damages were normally to be measured as at the date of the breach. However, this was not an absolute rule: at [12].

(2) In the present case the plaintiffs could have been adequately compensated by damages quantified as at the time of the breach if they had the additional funds to buy another unit at the prevailing prices: at [14].

(3) The plaintiffs' failure to eventually purchase a replacement unit because of their lack of financial resources did not operate against their claim on the grounds of remoteness of damage or failure to mitigate. The principle that a defendant was not liable, as a matter of law, for any pecuniary loss suffered by the plaintiff if such loss was caused by the plaintiff's lack of financial resources was no longer applicable in Singapore: at [15].

(4) It was more just and rational for damages to be fixed and awarded according to the prices prevailing at the time of...

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2 cases
  • EC Investment Holding Pte Ltd v Ridout Residence Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 28 September 2011
    ...[2005] OJ 638 (refd) Ng Chee Chuan v Ng Ai Tee [2009] 2 SLR (R) 918; [2009] 2 SLR 918 (folld) Ong Hien Yeow v Central Chambers LLC [2011] 1 SLR 1186 (refd) Peh Eng Leng v Pek Eng Leong [1996] 1 SLR (R) 939; [1996] 2 SLR 305 (refd) Sinnadurai Paramadevan and Blossom Paramadevan v Bernard Sem......
  • E C Investment Holding Pte Ltd v Ridout Residence Pte Ltd and others and another appeal
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 28 September 2011
    ...assessing damages for land contracts was recognised by our High Court in Ong Hien Yeow and another v Central Chambers LLC and another [2011] 1 SLR 1186. ECI further submitted that in the present case, the quantification of the damages to be awarded to it in lieu of specific performance woul......

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