Prosperland Pte Ltd v Civic Construction Pte Ltd and Others

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Judgment Date29 July 2004
Date29 July 2004
Docket NumberSuit No 514 of 2002

[2004] SGHC 157

High Court

Judith Prakash J

Suit No 514 of 2002

Prosperland Pte Ltd
Plaintiff
and
Civic Construction Pte Ltd and others
Defendant

Thio Shen Yi, Derek Loh and Adrian Tan (TSMP Law Corporation) for the plaintiff

Kelvin Chia (Balkenende Chew & Chia) for the first defendant

Tan Liam Beng and Lek Yi Siang (Drew & Napier LLC) for the second and third defendants.

Albazero, The [1977] AC 774 (folld)

Alfred McAlpine Construction Ltd v Panatown Ltd [2001] 1 AC 518 (refd)

Dunlop v Lambert (1839) 6 Cl & F 600; 7 ER 824 (refd)

Halford v Brookes [1991] 1 WLR 428 (folld)

Hamlin v Edwin Evans [1996] 2 EGLR 106 (folld)

Heathcote v David Marks & Co [1996] 3 EG 128 (refd)

Higgins v Hatch & Fielding [1996] 1 EGLR 133 (folld)

Letang v Cooper [1965] 1 QB 232 (refd)

Linden Gardens Trust Ltd v Lenesta Sludge Disposals Ltd, St Martins Property Corporation Ltd v Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd [1994] 1 AC 85 (refd)

Nash v Eli Lilly & Co [1993] 1 WLR 782 (folld)

RSP Architects Planners & Engineers v Ocean Front Pte Ltd [1995] 3 SLR (R) 653; [1996] 1 SLR 113 (refd)

RSP Architects Planners & Engineers v MCST Plan No 1075 [1999] 2 SLR (R) 134; [1999] 2 SLR 449 (refd)

Steamship Mutual Underwriting Association Ltd v Trollope & Colls (City) Ltd (1986) 33 BLR 77 (folld)

Land Titles (Strata) Act (Cap 158, 1999 Rev Ed)s 33 (2)

Limitation Act (Cap 163,1999Rev Ed)s 24A (2) (b) (consd);ss 6 (1) (a),24A (3),24A (4),24A (6),24A (7)

Limitation Act1980 (c 58) (UK) ss 11,14

Building and Construction Law–Building and construction contracts–Defects in condominium development–Property transferred to management corporation–Whether plaintiff developer was right party to sue under contract–Building and Construction Law–Building and construction contracts–General rule that plaintiff may only recover substantial damages for breach of contract if plaintiff suffered loss–Whether any exception to rule for building and construction contracts–Civil Procedure–Limitation–Meaning of “knowledge” under s 24A (2) (b) Limitation Act–Whether plaintiff's claims against defendants time-barred–Section 24A (2) (b) Limitation Act (Cap 163, 1999 Rev Ed)–Civil Procedure–Limitation–Plaintiff having two separate causes of action against defendants–Whether barring of one claim rendered other claim time-barred–Section 24A (2) (b) Limitation Act (Cap 163, 1999 Rev Ed)

The plaintiff was the developer of a condominium. The first defendant was the main contractor involved in the construction of the condominium. The second and third defendants were the architects employed to design and plan the building and to supervise its construction. Construction was completed in August 1993 and the property was subsequently transferred to Management Corporation Strata Title Plan No 2201 (“the MCST”) on 13 May 1998.

In August 1997, the MCST's building supervisor noticed that a ceramic wall tile had de-bonded from the condominium's façade. The first defendant was informed and, upon carrying out an inspection, it claimed that the loose tile was not due to de-bonding. In September 1999, two more tiles fell, and a visual inspection revealed more de-bonded and uneven tiles. As the first defendant continued to deny its liability, the plaintiff and the MCST appointed a building surveyor who reported in May 2000 that the problem with the wall tiles was due to the first defendant's poor workmanship and missing or incomplete movement joints.

Sometime in December 1998, the property manager of the MCST informed the plaintiff, in a letter, that many of the glass blocks in the staircase and lift lobby areas had cracked and were found to contain water. This letter was forwarded to the first defendant on 6 January 1999 with a request that they fix the problem. The plaintiff took no further action during the period from January 1999 till August 2000 as the first defendant appeared to be investigating the matter. The surveyor's report in May 2000 indicated that the damage to the glass blocks was also due to bad workmanship, inferior materials and bad design.

On 2 May 2002, the plaintiff issued a writ, claiming against the first defendant for breach of the building contract and/or negligence arising out of defective construction of the condominium, and against the second and third defendants for inadequate supervision and design. The present hearing was convened to determine two preliminary issues: (a) whether the plaintiff had failed to bring its claims within the relevant period provided for in s 24A (3) (b) of the Limitation Act (Cap 163, 1999 Rev Ed), a corollary issue being whether the plaintiff's claim would fail so long as one of the claims was time-barred; and (b) whether the plaintiff was the appropriate party to bring the present action against the defendants, as the propriety interest in the condominium had passed to the MCST in May 1998.

Held, allowing the plaintiff to sue for part of its claim:

(1) For time to start running under s 24A of the Limitation Act, an injured party had to know the material facts founding the cause of action and not that he had a possible cause of action. By s 24A (6), “knowledge” for the purposes of s 24A (4) included knowledge reasonably expected to be acquired. A firm belief held by the plaintiff that the damage was attributable to the acts or omission of the defendant, but in respect of which he thought it necessary to obtain reassurance or confirmation from experts, would not be regarded as knowledge until the result of his inquiries was known to him or, if he delayed in obtaining that confirmation, until the time when it was reasonable for him to have got it: at [10] and [11].

(2) The plaintiff had no reason to believe that the single de-bonded tile observed in August 1997 was anything more than an isolated incident. The first time the plaintiff had knowledge that the problem with the wall tiles was not an isolated one was in September 1999 when two more tiles de-bonded and fell off. Therefore, the limitation period for the plaintiff's claim against the defendants in this regard commenced in September 1999, and the plaintiff's claim for the defective tiling was not time-barred: at [33] and [39].

(3) As for the defective installation of the glass blocks, s 24A did not allow a postponement of the time bar on the ground that the plaintiff had given the first defendant time to investigate into the matter. The correspondence between the parties suggested that by 6 January 1999, the plaintiff knew the cause of the damage to the glass blocks and that the first defendant was most likely responsible for the damage. Even if the plaintiff had thought it necessary at that time to obtain the assurance of an expert, it would have obtained the expert's report by mid-April 1999 at the latest, using the timelines that it had suggested to the court. The limitation period would have started to run from then, and the plaintiff's claim against the first defendant with regard to the faulty installation of the glass blocks was therefore time-barred. Similar reasoning also rendered the plaintiff's claim against the second and third defendants time-barred: at [48], [51] and [53].

(4) The defective construction of the tiled façade and the defective glass blocks gave rise to separate causes of action. The fact that the plaintiff's claim for the faulty installation of the glass blocks was time-barred did not render its claim for the defective tiles time-barred as well: at [58].

(5) There was a general principle that a party was only entitled to recover substantial damages arising from a breach of contract if he himself had suffered that loss. However, a contractor under a building contract, who was fully aware that his acts or defaults could have long-term consequences that would only manifest themselves after the employer had divested himself of his interest in the building project, should not be able to avoid his responsibility to fulfil the contract. On that basis, the plaintiff was able to recover substantial damages from the defendants, as it had the right to full and proper performance of the respective contracts it had made with the parties: at [59] and [64].

(6) Alternatively, if the plaintiff was not permitted to sue the defendants for their respective breaches of contract, it would result in a “legal black hole” wherein the latter may well escape having to make compensation for the loss they caused. The exception to the general principle provided in The Albazero [1977] AC 774, where an original party to the contract who suffered no loss was entitled to sue for substantial damages if there was a “legal black hole”, would therefore apply in this case to permit the plaintiff to sue the defendants for substantial damages: at [65].

Judgment reserved.

Judith Prakash J

Introduction

1 On 22 August 2003, an order was made providing for certain preliminary issues arising in this action to be tried. Those preliminary issues fall into two categories, viz, whether the plaintiff's claims against the defendants or any of such claims are time-barred and, secondly, whether the plaintiff is the proper party to bring these claims.

2 The plaintiff, Prosperland Pte Ltd (“Prosperland”), was the developer of a condominium at 7 Claymore Road (“the condominium” or “the building”). The condominium comprises an apartment block approximately 20 storeys high. Its external façades are tiled with ceramic tiles. Extensive use is made of glass block walls at staircase areas and lift lobbies. Construction of the building was completed in August 1993. On 13 May 1998, Management Corporation Strata Title Plan No 2201 (“the MCST”) was constituted as a body corporate and it then became the proprietor of the common property of the condominium. Prosperland issued the writ in this action on 2 May 2002.

3 The defendants were the persons involved in the construction of the condominium. The first defendant, Civic Construction Pte Ltd...

To continue reading

Request your trial
15 cases
  • Management Corporation Strata Title Plan No 2297 v Seasons Park Ltd
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 29 March 2005
    ...([16] supra). 35 The appellant sought to rely on the decision of the High Court in Prosperland Pte Ltd v Civic Construction Pte Ltd [2004] 4 SLR 129 (“Prosperland”), which decision has recently been affirmed by this court in [2005] SGCA 12, to submit that all the more so the appellant shoul......
  • Anwar Patrick Adrian v Ng Chong & Hue LLC
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 29 May 2014
    ...(refd) Parry v Cleaver [1970] AC 1 (refd) Pickersgill v Riley [2004] PNLR 31 (refd) Prosperland Pte Ltd v Civic Construction Pte Ltd [2004] 4 SLR (R) 129; [2004] 4 SLR 129 (refd) Reeves v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2000] 1 AC 360 (refd) Reeves v Thrings&Long [1996] PNLR 265 (......
  • Seah Boon Lock and another v Family Food Court
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 16 July 2008
    ...Ltd [1994] 1 AC 85 (refd) Pegang Mining Co Ltd v Choong Sam [1969] 2 MLJ 52 (refd) Prosperland Pte Ltd v Civic Construction Pte Ltd [2004] 4 SLR (R) 129; [2004] 4 SLR 129 (refd) Radford v De Froberville [1977] 1 WLR 1262 (refd) Rainbow Spring, The [2003] 3 SLR (R) 362; [2003] 3 SLR 362 (ref......
  • Lian Kok Hong v Ow Wah Foong and Another
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 10 July 2008
    ...which deserve some elaboration. 38 First, as to material facts, the High Court in Prosperland Pte Ltd v Civic Construction Pte Ltd [2004] 4 SLR 129 (“Prosperland”), the High Court correctly held that for time to start running under s 24A of the Limitation Act, an injured party was not requi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 books & journal articles
  • Contract Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2004, December 2004
    • 1 December 2004
    ...the group, namely the second defendant (at [134]—[142]). 9.51 The important decision of Prosperland Pte Ltd v Civic Construction Pte Ltd[2004] 4 SLR 129 is dealt with below at paras 9.90 onwards under ‘Damages in a three-party “black-hole” case’. Capacity 9.52 In MCST Plan No 2297 v Seasons......
  • Land Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2005, December 2005
    • 1 December 2005
    ...against the developer. The management corporation in Seasons Park sought to rely on Prosperland Pte Ltd v Civic Construction Pte Ltd[2004] 4 SLR 129 (‘Prosperland’), affirmed by the Court of Appeal in Chia Kok Leong v Prosperland Pte Ltd[2005] 2 SLR 484, for this. However, the reliance was ......
  • Contract Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2007, December 2007
    • 1 December 2007
    ...in Chia Kok Leong v Prosperland Pte Ltd[2005] 2 SLR 484 (upholding the decision of Prakash J in Prosperland Pte Ltd v Chia Kok Leong[2004] 4 SLR 129), it seems well accepted that where a defendant has contracted with a plaintiff to perform certain contractual works on a subject property as ......
  • Building and Construction Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2010, December 2010
    • 1 December 2010
    ...Siu Chiu J dismissed this line of argument, holding that the position as settled in Prosperland Pte Ltd v Civic Construction Pte Ltd [2004] 4 SLR(R) 129 (affirmed on appeal in Chia Kok Leong v Prosperland Pte Ltd [2005] 2 SLR(R) 484) is that the developer retained an interest to sustain thi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT