Resource Piling Pte Ltd v Geospecs Pte Ltd

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Judgment Date05 November 2013
Date05 November 2013
Docket NumberSuit No 343 of 2011

High Court

Quentin Loh J

Suit No 343 of 2011

Resource Piling Pte Ltd
Geospecs Pte Ltd

Leo Cheng Suan and Teh Ee-von (Infinitus Law Corporation) for the plaintiff

Thomas Tan and Lai Kwan Wei (Haridass Ho & Partners) for the defendant.

Animal Concerns Research & Education Society v Tan Boon Kwee [2011] 2 SLR 146 (refd)

Biakanja v Irving 49 Cal 2 d 467 (1959) (refd)

Caparo Industries plc v Dickman [1990] 2 AC 605 (refd)

Edgeworth Construction Ltd v ND Lea & Associates Ltd (1993) 107 DLR (4 th) 169 (refd)

Galliford Try Infrastructure Ltd v Mott Mac Donald Ltd [2008] EWHC 1570 (TCC) (refd)

Hedley Byrne & Co Ltd v Heller & Partners Ltd [1964] AC 465 (refd)

JJarvis and Sons Ltd v Castle Wharf Developments Ltd [2001] EWCA Civ 19 (refd)

M Miller Co v Dames & Moore 198 Cal App 2 d 305 (1961) (refd)

Mc Loughlin v O'Brian [1983] 1 AC 410 (refd)

Ngiam Kong Seng v Lim Chiew Hock [2008] 3 SLR (R) 674; [2008] 3 SLR 674 (refd)

Pacific Associates Inc v Baxter [1990] 1 QB 993 (refd)

Pacific Recreation Pte Ltd v S Y Technology Inc [2008] 2 SLR (R) 491; [2008] 2 SLR 491 (refd)

RMTurton & Co Ltd v Kerslake & Partners [2000] 3 NZLR 406 (refd)

Simaan General Contracting Co v Pilkington Glass Ltd (No 2) [1988] QB 758 (refd)

Smith v Eric S Bush [1990] 1 AC 831 (refd)

Spandeck Engineering (S) Pte Ltd v Defence Science & Technology Agency [2007] 4 SLR (R) 100; [2007] 4 SLR 100 (folld)

Sunny Metal & Engineering Pte Ltd v Ng Khim Ming Eric [2007] 1 SLR (R) 853; [2007] 1 SLR 853 (refd)

Sutherland Shire Council v Heyman (1985) 60 ALR 1 (refd)

Tan Juay Pah v Kimly Construction Pte Ltd [2012] 2 SLR 549 (refd)

Williams v Natural Life Health Foods Ltd [1998] 1 WLR 830 (refd)

Building Control Act (Cap 29, 1999 Rev Ed) ss 2 (1) , 11, 29 G

Building Control (Amendment) Act 2007 (Act 47 of 2007)

Building Control Regulations 2003 (S 666/2003) reg 31 (consd) ;regs 31 (1) , 31 (2) , 31 (3) , 31 (4) , 50

Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2008 (S 54/2008)

Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2006 Rev Ed) O 40 r 2

Tort—Negligence—Duty of care—Soil investigator employed by developer to conduct soil investigation—Borehole logs produced by soil investigator passed to contractor who relied on borehole logs to price his tender for piling contract—Soil investigator having statutory duty of care to carry out proper and adequate site investigation works—Whether soil investigator owed common law duty of care to contractor—Whether there was proximity between soil investigator and contractor—Whether prima facie duty of care was negated by policy considerations

The claimant, Resource Piling Pte Ltd (‘Resource Piling’) won a tender to carry out piling works on a site between Balestier Road and Ah Hood Road (‘the Site’). The tender documents issued by the developer to Resource Piling contained borehole logs (‘the Geospecs Logs’) prepared by the defendant Geospecs Pte Ltd (‘Geospecs’), which indicated that rock was only encountered in two out of eleven boreholes drilled on the Site in the course of soil investigation works. In the course of carrying out the piling works, Resource Piling recorded that it had encountered rock in 77% of the piles drilled in zones where, according to the Geospecs Logs, rock was not found in the investigation boreholes (‘the Boring Logs’). Resource Piling employed Soil & Foundation Pte Ltd (‘S&F’) to carry out additional soil investigation work, and the results obtained by S&F indicated that rock was encountered in the vicinity of the boreholes where the Geospecs Logs had indicated that only residual soil was found. As the contract between Resource Piling and the developer was on a fixed price per metre basis, the developer rejected Resource Piling's claims for extra payment for the costs of drilling into rock - which was more expensive than boring into soil - and rock socketing. Resource Piling brought a claim in tort against Geospecs, alleging that Geospecs knew that Resource Piling would rely on the Geospecs Logs in pricing its tender, and that Geospecs owed a duty of care to Resource Piling to ensure that the Geospecs Logs were accurate and reliable.

Held, dismissing the claim:

(1) To establish a duty of care, the test set out in Spandeck Engineering (S) Pte Ltd v Defence Science & Technology Agency[2007] 4 SLR (R) 100 (‘Spandeck’) had to be satisfied. The Spandeck test was a two-stage test premised on proximity and policy considerations, preceded by a preliminary requirement of factual foreseeability, and was to be applied incrementally: at [21] .

(2) The threshold factual foreseeability requirement was satisfied. Geospecs' director conceded that if the borehole logs provided by the company engaged to conduct soil investigation were wrong, the contractor who relied on the borehole logs to price his tender for a piling contract would also calculate the cost of the work and the time taken to conduct the work inaccurately; a soil investigator would therefore expect that inaccuracies in his borehole logs could cause some form of economic loss to contractors: at [24] .

(3) One of the factors to be considered under the legal proximity test was the existence of a statutory duty, which might establish that the duty of care did not extend to losses arising from a transaction falling outside the purpose for which an allegedly negligent statement was made. Geospecs had a statutory duty under reg 31 of the Building Control Regulations 2003 (S 666/2003) (‘BCR’) to carry out proper and adequate site investigation works, but there was nothing in the statutory framework of the Building Control Act (Cap 29, 1999 Rev Ed) (‘BCA’) to suggest that the building regulatory regime served the additional statutory objectives of protecting the economic interests of the various participants in the construction industry or defining the scope of their responsibilities vis-à-vis each other. Contractors were not within the class of persons intended to be protected by the statutory duty under reg 31 and the duty was of minimal assistance to Resource Piling in establishing a direct relationship or an assumption of responsibility by Geospecs to Resource Piling: at [28] , [29] , [32] and [33] .

(4) Although Resource Piling was not practically able to ascertain the accuracy of the Geospecs Logs and Geospecs had knowledge that the information in the Geospecs Logs would be conveyed to contractors in the position of Resource Piling and relied upon to price tenders, these factors were not sufficient per se to establish proximity: at [60] .

(5) Resource Piling had not established legal proximity under the first limb of the Spandeck test. There was no physical proximity in terms of immediacy of relationship, nor was there circumstantial proximity as Geospecs had not prepared the Geospecs Logs for the immediate purpose of conferring some benefit on Resource Piling. The overall contractual and commercial context also evinced the parties' intentions to allocate the entire risk of any economic loss arising from inaccuracies in the Geospecs Logs to the contractor carrying out the piling works, and this undermined any direct assumption of responsibility by Geospecs to Resource Piling: at [67] , [70] and [77] .

(6) If proximity had been found on the facts, a prima facie duty of care would have been negated by policy considerations: at [78] .

(7) The statutory framework under the BCA was intended to promote a common denominator of safety standards for the public benefit and did not purport to regulate the rights and commercial interests of parties involved in the construction industry. Geospecs' duty under the BCR to carry out proper and adequate site investigation works was therefore not a positive policy reason in favour of a duty of care: at [82] .

(8) The practical limitations on contractors carrying out their own site investigation works before tendering was not a valid policy consideration supporting a duty of care as such limitations could be mitigated by entering into contracts that shared the risk, and if a contractor had voluntarily undertaken the risk, this was a policy consideration that should negate an extra-contractual remedy. The imposition of a duty of care owed by a third party professional to a contractor in the tendering process would not be consistent with distributive justice and would undermine the private allocation of risk that the parties had voluntarily entered into: at [87] and [89] .

(9) The Boring Logs documented that Resource Piling had hit rock in 77% of the piles that it had drilled in the zones surrounding the nine boreholes where the Geospecs Logs had indicated that no rock was encountered. There was no basis for Geospecs' allegation that Resource Piling had fabricated its records: at [112] , [115] and [116] .

(10) The Geospecs Logs were inaccurate. The evidence of the Geospecs employees who had carried out the soil investigation work gave rise to the inference that the work had been done incompetently. Proper samples for verification had not been obtained from the lower layers of eight of the eleven original boreholes or the two confirmatory boreholes that were subsequently drilled, and the recording of the soil profiles at the lower depths was more likely to have been based on guesswork. Further, it was not disputed that the design of the piles was subsequently changed, and this had to have been because the ground conditions encountered at the lower layers had in fact been rock instead of soil, contrary to what was recorded in the Geospecs Logs: at [117] , [121] , [123] , [124] and [128] .

(11) On a balance of probabilities, the borehole logs produced by S&F were accurate, and S&F's conduct of its soil investigation works was more professional than Geospecs' work. This demonstrated that the methods adopted by Geospecs contributed to a higher probability that the soil conditions at the lower layers had not been...

To continue reading

Request your trial
3 cases
  • Chu Said Thong v Vision Law LLC
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 14 August 2014
    ...Osterreich AG v Archer Daniels Midland Co [2007] 1 SLR (R) 196; [2007] 1 SLR 196 (refd) Resource Piling Pte Ltd v Geospecs Pte Ltd [2014] 1 SLR 485 (refd) Robertson Quay Investment Pte Ltd v Steen Consultants Pte Ltd [2008] 2 SLR (R) 623; [2008] 2 SLR 623 (folld) Ross v Caunters [1980] Ch 2......
  • Straits Advisors Pte Ltd v Michael Deeb (alias Magdi Salah El-Deeb) and others
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 6 May 2014
    ...assumption of responsibility and reliance. The following observation of Quentin Loh J in Resource Piling Pte Ltd v Geospecs Pte Ltd [2014] 1 SLR 485 (“Geospecs”) is apposite (at [26]): I note that although the Court of Appeal in Spandeck set out a single test for a duty of care and enunciat......
  • Tan Woo Thian v PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 13 August 2020
    ...Chee Leng (trading as Elizabeth Leong & Co) [1993] 2 SLR(R) 480. Reliance was also placed on Resource Piling Pte Ltd v Geospecs Pte Ltd [2014] 1 SLR 485 (“Resource Piling”), where a soil investigator who was engaged by a developer to produce borehole logs was held not to owe a duty of care ......
2 books & journal articles
  • Building and Construction Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2013, December 2013
    • 1 December 2013
    ...Agency[2007] 4 SLR(R) 100 (‘Spandeck’)). Another case that is breaking new ground is Resource Piling Pte Ltd v Geospecs Pte Ltd[2014] 1 SLR 485 which determined whether a qualified person under the Building Control Act (Cap 29, 1999 Rev Ed) owes a duty of care to a contractor. The construct......
  • Tort Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2013, December 2013
    • 1 December 2013
    ...the client's appeal. The client was ordered to pay the bank the amount he owed. 24.79 Resource Piling Pte Ltd v Geospecs Pte Ltd[2014] 1 SLR 485 (‘Resource Piling’) concerned a novel claim for pure economic loss in the tort of negligence. The plaintiff was a piling contractor while the defe......

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