Tan Chin Seng and Others v Raffles Town Club Pte Ltd (No 2)

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeMPH Rubin J
Judgment Date20 May 2002
Neutral Citation[2002] SGHC 110
Citation[2002] SGHC 110
Subject MatterDiscovery of documents,Whether request for discovery too wide, oppressive and onerous,Whether party giving discovery has to disclose every part of document,Civil Procedure,Whether to order disclosure of material to be used solely for cross-examination to establish witness's credibility,O 24 r 5 Rules of Court,Whether documents contain information which may advance plaintiffs' case or damage defendants',Whether documents sought relevant to case,Relevancy of documents
Plaintiff CounselK Shanmugam SC and Boey Swee Siang (Allen & Gledhill),Wang Shao-Ing and Roland Tong (Wong Tan & Molly Lim)
Docket NumberSuit No 1441 of 2001 (Registrar's
Published date19 September 2003
Date20 May 2002

number of documents by a specified date and time, failing which judgment would be entered against the defendants. The order was made pursuant to the plaintiffs’ action against the club for misrepresentation and breach of contract. The plaintiffs allege that the ‘common law prospectus’ promised lavish reception and facilities to all selected and accepted by the defendants as members of the club, which representations the plaintiffs allege were false and misleading.

The defendants appealed against discovery of the following documents in the order: A document recording the number of members to be taken in the 1st offering (Item 1); a document recording the number of members to be taken in the second offering (Item 2); a document recording the number of applications received and determining the number to be accepted in the 1st offering (Item 3); any document(s) revealing a change in approval criteria between the 1st and 2nd offering (Item 4); application forms submitted and approved at the fee of $28,000 in the relevant period (Item 5); a document reflecting the membership numbers at various dates from 1996 to 2002 (Item 7); any document relating to the decision before June 2001 to use $100,000,000 for additional facilities (Item 9(b)); copies of correspondence from members raising complaints and the club management’s replies over a period of time (Item 10); documents relating to the use of presidential or executive suites of RTC by non-members in the relevant period (Item 11); and finally, the original document entitled "F & B Daily Sales and Cost of Sales Analysis" (Item 12).

Held, allowing the appeal save for Item 7 of the Order,

(1) Whether a class of documents as a whole would be relevant and should be produced for the purposes of discovery must depend upon the court’s evaluation that the documents sought would contain such information that might enable the plaintiffs to advance their own case or damage that of the defendants; O Co. v M Co. [1996] 2 Lloyd’s LR 347 followed (see 14).

(2) A court would not order discovery of material which would be used solely for cross-examination of a witness as to credit since it would be oppressive if a party was obliged to disclose any document which might provide material for cross examination as to his credibility as a witness; Thorpe v Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police [1989] 2 All ER 827 followed (see 15).

(3) If the request for discovery is too wide, too onerous or oppressive then the courts are likely to reject the request. Save for Item 7, which is germane to the issues addressed in this case, the other discoveries appealed against are too wide, extremely onerous and appear to lack the essential ingredient of relevance. (see 17 – 29)

Case(s) referred to

O Co. v M Co.

[1996] 2 Lloyds LR 347 (folld)

Fuji Photo Film Co Ltd v Carr’s Paper Ltd and others

[1989] RPC 713 (refd)

G.E. Capital Corporate Finance Group Ltd v Bankers Trust Co. and

Others [1995] 1 WLR 172 (folld)

Manilal & Sons (Pte) Ltd v Bhupendra KJ Shan (t/a JB International)

[1989] SLR 1182 (refd)

Marks and Spencer plc v Granada TV and Another

(unreported) (refd)

Standard Chartered Bank v Ssangyong Cement (Singapore) Limited

(S 1173/1991, unreported) (refd)

The Patraikos 2

[2001] 4 SLR 308 (refd)

Thorpe v Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police

[1989] 2 All ER 827 (folld)

Legislation referred to

Rules of Court O 24 r 5



1. This is an appeal by the defendants against the order of the learned Assistant Registrar of the Supreme Court made on 23 April 2002 requiring the defendants to provide the plaintiffs with a number of documents by 5 p.m. on 7 May 2002. Failure to comply with the order would have resulted in the plaintiffs entering judgment against the defendants. The background to the present appeal is provided below

2. The plaintiffs, a group of about 4,895 disgruntled members of a proprietary social club, have brought this action against the club, the defendants herein, based on actionable misrepresentation and breach of contract. The purpose of this action, as stated in the plaintiffs’ statement of claim is to seek declaratory orders and compensation for the said alleged actionable misrepresentation and breach of contract, reportedly contained in a set of documents which the plaintiffs term as a ‘common law prospectus’, promising lavish reception and facilities to all selected and accepted by the defendants as members of the club.

3. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants issued and caused to be despatched to members of the public the said common law prospectus. According to the plaintiffs, the said common law prospectus comprised:

(a) a letter of invitation dated 9 November 1996;

(b) a document giving general information in the form of questions and answers; and

(c) a brochure.

4. The plaintiffs further aver in their statement of claim that the said prospectus contained, inter alia, the following highlights either by express representation or by way of necessary implications:

(a) It was planned that the Club would have nearly 600 car park lots for the use of the members.

(b) "Raffles Town Club members will enjoy unparalleled privileges and facilities".

(c) "The Club’s exclusive and limited memberships will be fully transferrable".

(d) The Club would be constructed to have a total built-up area in excess of 400,000 sq. ft. catering for the "business entertainment, networking, socializing, personal and family leisure requirements" of each successful subscription for the duration of the membership. The Club would have "separate formal, casual, sporting, children’s and family facilities" for the successful subscribers.

(e) A supplementary card would be issued to the spouse or fianc of the member allowing full membership privileges and benefits at no additional cost. This was intended to convey the meaning and message that each subscriber would receive two licences for the price of one.

(f) The Club would be "without peer in terms of size, facilities and sheer opulence".

(g) There would be two classes of individual members:

(i) first, a limited number of exclusive transferable founder members at S$28,000 (exclusive of GST) available to the credit-card holding customers on a first-come-first-served basis. This class of founder members would be selected from those who submitted their applications not later than 30 November 1996. Based on "priority applications", this class of members were called "founder members"; and

(ii) the second class of members would be selected from those not selected from the priority applications and from fresh applications submitted in response to a public launch to be made after 30 November 1996. The allotment price for this class of members was to be S$40,000. This class of members will hereafter be called "second class members".

5. In paragraphs 10 to 14 of the statement of claim, the plaintiffs outlined how they understood the said representations and their grievances. Insofar as is material, the said segment reads as follows:

10. The Plaintiffs and other members of the Class understood the representations to mean that the total number of members at any given time would be limited such that at any given time no member and the supplementary card-holder would be shut out from or be unable to use the facilities of the Club, including the car parks in the manner or up to the standard as represented in the prospectus. Such limitation was also to be inferred from the holding-out and the representations (a) that the Club would be "without peer in terms of size, facilities and sheer opulence", (b) that there would be "a limited number of exclusive individual founder member memberships" and (c) as to the number of car park lots and the total built-up area. Further, the representations were to be understood, implied or inferred in the light of the provisions of the Building Control Act, the regulations made thereunder as construed and applied by the consultant architects engaged by the Defendant for the construction of the Club.

11. Additionally or alternatively, the representations and the holding-out set out above became terms of the contractual licences spawned by the acceptance of the Plaintiffs and other members of the Class.

12. The Plaintiffs and other members of the Class on the faith of the representations as set out above and the contents of the prospectus as a whole subscribed to and became the founder members. Each...

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