Singapore Airlines Ltd v CSDS Aircraft Sales & Leasing Inc.

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeJeremy Lionel Cooke IJ
Judgment Date16 July 2020
Docket NumberSuit No 4 of 2019 (Summonses Nos 30 and 31 of 2020)
Date16 July 2020

[2020] SGHC(I) 18

Singapore International Commercial Court

Jeremy Lionel Cooke IJ

Suit No 4 of 2019 (Summonses Nos 30 and 31 of 2020)

Singapore Airlines Ltd
and
CSDS Aircraft Sales & Leasing Inc

Tan Teck San Kelvin, Chen Chuanjian Jason, Chng Hu Ping (Drew & Napier LLC) for the plaintiff;

Roderick Edward Martin SC, Rajaram Ramiah, Yap Yongzhi Gideon, Eugene Tan (RHTLaw Asia LLP) for the defendant.

Case(s) referred to

ACB v Thomson Medical Pte Ltd [2017] 1 SLR 918 (refd)

Arab Monetary Fund v Hashim (No 7) [1993] 1 WLR 1014 (refd)

Arovin Ltd v Hadiran Sridjaja [2018] 5 SLR 117 (folld)

BA Pension Trustees Ltd v Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons Ltd (1994) 72 BLR 26 (refd)

Element Six Technologies Ltd v Ila Technologies Pte Ltd [2017] SGHCR 16 (refd)

Industrial & Commercial Bank Ltd v PD International Pte Ltd [2003] 1 SLR(R) 382; [2003] 1 SLR 382 (refd)

Lee Chee Wei v Tan Hor Peow Victor [2007] 3 SLR(R) 537; [2007] 3 SLR 537 (refd)

Scintronix Corp Ltd v Ho Kang Peng [2011] SGHC 28 (refd)

Sharikat Logistics Pte Ltd v Ong Boon Chuan [2011] SGHC 196 (refd)

Surge Electrical Engineering Pte Ltd v Powertec Engineers Pte Ltd [2002] SGHC 280 (folld)

Wan Lai Ting v Kea Kah Kim [2014] 4 SLR 795 (refd)

Legislation referred to

Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2014 Rev Ed) O 110 r 23 (consd); O 18 r 12(3), O 33, O 33 r 2, O 33 r 3, O 38, O 38 rr 1–3, O 110, O 110 r 3, O 110 r 51

Civil Procedure — Pleadings — Further and better particulars — Defendants refusing to provide details of pleaded cancellation of third party contracts as result of plaintiff's alleged wrongful repudiation — Whether details of pleaded contractual cancellations should be given

Civil Procedure — Trial — Application for bifurcation of trial without other party's consent — Whether bifurcation of trial should be ordered — Order 110 r 23 Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2014 Rev Ed)

Evidence — Witnesses — Attendance — Whether dispute on liability should be decided on paper alone — Order 110 r 23 Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2014 Rev Ed)

Facts

The plaintiff, Singapore Airlines Ltd, agreed to sell an aircraft to the defendant, CSDS Aircraft Sales & Leasing Inc, for the purchase price of US$6.5m by way of an aircraft purchase agreement which was governed by English law. The defendant paid a deposit sum, leaving a balance sum outstanding. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant repudiated the agreement by not paying the outstanding balance, and claimed damages for the alleged repudiation. The defendant, on the other hand, alleged that there was wrongful repudiation of the agreement by the plaintiff, and counterclaimed for damages for the alleged repudiation.

In SIC/SUM 30 of 2020 (“SUM 30”), the plaintiff sought further and better particulars of para 27 of the amended defence and counterclaim. At para 27, the defendant pleaded that due to the aircraft not being delivered, the defendants had to cancel several contracts with third parties. Particulars were sought by the plaintiff as to (a) when the cancellations took place and of the full facts, matters and circumstances of the manner in which the defendant allegedly cancelled the third party contracts; (b) whether the cancellations were made orally or in writing; (c) if orally, the names and designation of the parties' representatives who made and received the communications on the part of the defendant and third parties; and (d) if in writing, the identity of the document that contained the relevant communications and the full particulars of such documents. The defendant, in further particulars, stated that the cancellations took place “[i]n or around December 2018”, and that the relevant communications were made by telephone, but refused to provide further information as requested by the plaintiff.

The issue was whether or not the plaintiff was entitled to the particulars that had been refused in relation to the identification of the parties' representatives, by name and designation, and the identification of any relevant documents recording the alleged cancellations.

In SIC/SUM 31/2020 (“SUM 31”), the plaintiff applied for, in the main, the following orders/directions: (a) that the trial in SIC/S 4/2019 be bifurcated; (b) in respect of the trial on liability only, that evidence be given by way of affidavits of evidence-in-chief, and that the taking of oral evidence be dispensed with; (c) that within four weeks of an order made in respect of SUM 31, the plaintiff file its application to amend its Statement of Claim (Amendment No 2) setting out particulars of its loss and damage, and that it provide to the defendant additional documents that it relied on in respect of such loss and damage.

Held, allowing the plaintiff's applications in SUM 30 and SUM 31:

SUM 30

(1) When facts were pleaded, they had to be pleaded with sufficient particularity for the other party to know the case it had to meet and to assess what evidence it needed to adduce to meet that case. It was for this reason that both practice and the authorities required details of pleaded contracts, variations or cancellations to be given: at [8] to [11].

(2) The plaintiff was therefore entitled to the particulars requested, and the defendant was required to identify the individuals who were involved in the cancellation agreements. This required the defendant to state the name and designation of each of the parties' representatives who made and received the relevant communications, and if there was any communication in writing, to identify the documents containing those communications, and to give full particulars of those documents: at [12] and [14].

SUM 31

(3) Pursuant to O 33 rr 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2014 Rev Ed) (“ROC”), the Singapore High Court had the power to order a split trial of liability issues from issues of damages. This was a matter of case management for the court's discretionary determination. Pursuant to O 38 rr 1 to 3 of the ROC, it was open to the Singapore High Court to dispense with cross-examination and the attendance of witnesses in the taking of evidence where it was just and convenient to do so. The terms of O 33 and O 38 did not make any exercise of these powers conditional on the consent of the parties: at [18] to [22].

(4) The effect of O 110 r 23 of the ROC was to maintain the provisions of the ROC relating to evidence applicable to the Singapore High Court for the Singapore International Commercial Court (“SICC”), unless the parties otherwise agreed on an application to vary them: at [25].

(5) There was no agreement to vary the relevant provisions of the ROC in this case, so the provisions of O 33 and O 38 of the ROC continued to apply without the need for the consent of the parties. The court could order split trials and accept evidence on affidavit without cross-examination if it considered just to do so. The effect of O 110 r 51 of the ROC was that the SICC could not dispense with oral arguments save in the circumstances set out therein, none of which applied here: at [25] and [26].

(6) An order for a bifurcated trial in this case was likely to produce substantial savings in time and expense, without causing any prejudice or injustice to either party. In the defendant's letter dated 15 May 2020, the defendant's lawyers had in fact suggested that the trial of all issues take place on paper alone without any oral evidence or the presence of lawyers to make oral submissions, which was a step further than the plaintiff's proposal for the dispute on liability only to be determined on paper alone. The defendant had not suggested that there was any evidence of the plaintiff's witnesses in their affidavits which needed probing in cross-examination on issues of liability. The evidence of the witnesses of fact was effectively uncontested or irrelevant to the main issue. The evidence needed for the determination of liability had been agreed – by the parties' lawyers in mutual exchanges in correspondence – to be documentary, as exhibited to the affidavits or pleadings: at [27] to [30] and [33].

(7) The plaintiff's application – for an order that it file its application to amend its Statement of Claim (Amendment No 2) setting out the particulars of its loss and damage, and provide to the defendant additional documents that it relied on in respect of its loss and damage within four weeks of an order made in respect of SUM 31 – was a sensible one, and it was granted accordingly: at [35].

16 July 2020

Judgment reserved.

Jeremy Lionel Cooke IJ:

1 This judgment pertains to two applications: (a) the plaintiff's application for further and better particulars in SIC/SUM 30/2020 (“SUM 30”); and (b) the plaintiff's application in SIC/SUM 31/2020 (“SUM 31”) for certain orders and/or directions. I address...

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