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

JudgeKarthigesu J
Judgment Date07 May 1993
Neutral Citation[1993] SGCA 34
Date07 May 1993
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
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 80 of 1991
Published date19 September 2003
Defendant CounselAdrian Ee (Ramdas & Wong)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Plaintiff CounselCheng Tim Pin (Yap & Yap)

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 rented the equipment from Lian Yit for $25,000 per month and was of the view that $25,000 per month was an excessive amount. Accordingly, he ordered that special damages for the period 11 July 1989 to 30 April 1990 (when the equipment was returned under an order of court) be assessed and paid by Siew Kong to the respondents. The learned trial judge found no evidence of any liability on the part of Wang (the second defendants) and dismissed the claim against them.

In his grounds of judgment, the learned trial judge stated that for the purpose of determining whether there was detinue, conversion or wrongful use of the equipment by Siew Kong/Wang and for determining whether the respondents were entitled to the claim of special damages at $25,000 per month and/or general damages, it was not necessary for him to decide which of the two plaintiffs Siew Kong had an agreement with.
He held that as the claim was in tort he could treat both Lian Yit and Yoong jointly as a single entity.

The above statement by the learned trial judge formed the first ground of appeal canvassed before us.
Counsel for Siew Kong submitted that if Yoong did hire the said equipment from Lian Yit, then only Yoong was entitled to maintain an action for conversion. It was submitted that the learned...

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4 books & journal articles
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    • Construction Law. Volume II - Third Edition
    • 13 April 2020
    ...Gaba Formwork Contractors Pty Ltd v Turner Corp Ltd (1991) 32 NSWLr 175; Siew Kong Engineering Works v Lian Yit Engineering Sdn Bhd [1993] 1 SLr(r) 736. 552 Certainly under the law of Singapore. In australia, the courts have taken a broad approach to the question of whether a chattel has be......
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    ...restitutionary (ie, focusing on the benefit obtained by the defendant, eg, Siew Kong Engineering Works v Lian Yit Engineering Sdn Bhd[1993] 1 SLR(R) 736) or compensatory (ie, focusing on the plaintiff's loss, eg, Hillesden Securities Ltd v Ryjack Ltd[1983] 1 WLR 959), and concluded there ar......
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    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2013, December 2013
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    ...and caused no actual loss to the owner. The judge referred to the cases of Siew Kong Engineering Works v Lian Yit Engineering Sdn Bhd[1993] 1 SLR(R) 736; Strand Electric & Engineering Co Ld v Brisford Entertainments Ld[1952] QB 246; and Yenty Lily v ACES System Development Pte Ltd[2013] 1 S......
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    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2006, December 2006
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    ...for wrongful detention of goods, see the Court of Appeal decisions in Siew Kong Engineering Works v Lian Yit Engineering Sdn Bhd[1993] 2 SLR 505 and The Owners of the Ship or Vessel “Pioneer Glory” v PT GE Astra Finance, supra n 62. 64 At first instance, Judith Prakash J pointed out that th......

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