Siew Kong Engineering Works (sued as a firm) v Lian Yit Engineering Sdn Bhd and Another

CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
JudgeKarthigesu J
Judgment Date07 May 1993
Neutral Citation[1993] SGCA 34
Citation[1993] SGCA 34
Subject MatterRight of party to bring action,Tort,Measure of damages,Entitlement of owner of property to special damages,Principles Applicable,Civil Procedure,Damages,Wrongful detention for own use property belonging to another,Whether actual damage need be shown,Effect of misjoinder,Whether decision of court invalidated,Entitlement of trial judge to determine matter on basis of parties appearing before the court,Misjoinder,Conversion,Locus standi,Parties
Date07 May 1993
Defendant CounselAdrian Ee (Ramdas & Wong)
Plaintiff CounselCheng Tim Pin (Yap & Yap)
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 80 of 1991
Published date19 September 2003

Cur Adv Vult

Wang Coo-Kien & Co Pte Ltd (`Wang`), who were the second defendants in this action, had entered into a contract for the construction of part of a marine terminal at Pulau Busing off Jurong. The project involved the jointing and welding of steel pipes. Wang sub-contracted this work to the appellants/first defendants Siew Kong Engineering Works (`Siew Kong`). For the sub-contract work Siew Kong required specialized welding equipment which they did not have. The first respondents/first plaintiffs Lian Yit Engineering Sdn Bhd (`Lian Yit`), a Malaysian company, had the necessary equipment. Siew Kong approached Yoong Wan Hoi (`Yoong`), the second respondent/second plaintiff, who was a director of Lian Yit, for assistance. As a result the required equipment was sent down to Singapore.

The precise nature and terms of the arrangement between the respondents and Siew Kong was a matter of dispute. It was the case of Lian Yit and Yoong that the equipment had been hired by Lian Yit to Yoong for $25,000 per month; that Yoong had entered into an agreement with Siew Kong to do the jointing and welding works as sub-contractor of Siew Kong; that the equipment was sent to Pulau Busing pursuant to this agreement; and that subsequently two of the 35 pieces of equipment were sold by Lian Yit to Yoong.

Yoong alleged that Siew Kong defaulted in payment for work done by him and he commenced an action in the High Court (Suit No 1441 of 1989) for $68,112.20 against Siew Kong and Wang for such work. Siew Kong and Wang denied this claim. As a result of this dispute the respondents wanted to retrieve the equipment from Pulau Busing but encountered difficulties. They therefore commenced these proceedings alleging detinue and conversion against Siew Kong and Wang and sought, inter alia, an order for the delivery of the equipment and $25,000 per month for the wrongful use of the equipment from 11 July 1989 to date of redelivery.

Siew Kong denied that Yoong was their sub-contractor and claimed that they had in fact purchased the equipment for a sum of $68,000 from Lian Yit. Siew Kong therefore claimed a right of ownership and exclusive possession over the equipment.

At the trial two issues arose for consideration by the learned judicial commissioner GP Selvam. These were: (a) whether there had been detinue, conversion or wrongful use of the equipment by Siew Kong and Wang; (b) whether Lian Yit and Yoong were entitled to claim special damages at $25,000 per month as claimed and/or general damages.

The learned trial judge disbelieved Siew Kong`s claim that they had purchased the equipment from Lian Yit. He found that that claim was an afterthought conjured up by Siew Kong when Siew Kong found that the documentation prepared by Lian Yit for the purpose of clearing the equipment through the Malaysian customs lent itself to such a construction. He found that there was no sale of the equipment by either of the respondents to Siew Kong and that there was wrongful use of the equipment by Siew Kong. As for damages the learned trial judge was not satisfied that Yoong had...

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