Tan Thiam Loke v Woon Swee Kheng Christina

CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
JudgeChan Sek Keong J
Judgment Date01 October 1991
Neutral Citation[1991] SGCA 32
Citation[1991] SGCA 32
Defendant CounselJB Jeyaretnam (JB Jeyaretnam & Co)
Plaintiff CounselS Santhiran (Santhiran & Partners)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 102 of 1989
Date01 October 1991
Subject MatterConstructive trust,Detrimental reliance upon common intention,Property held by parties as joint tenants,Reliance upon common intention that was detrimental,Constructive trusts,Whether respondent has absolute beneficial interest in property,Beneficial ownership,Beneficial ownership in property,Land,Common intention that beneficial interest to be shared,Trusts,Interest in land

Cur Adv Vult

The relevant facts giving rise to this appeal are briefly these. The plaintiff first met the defendant sometime in December 1975. They became close friends and later were contemplating matrimony. However, unknown to the plaintiff, the defendant was already married. The plaintiff did not discover this until sometime in the middle of 1976, and when she confronted the defendant of this fact, he told her that he would be taking steps to divorce his wife and thereafter would marry her. The parties continued their relationship, but the defendant took no steps to divorce his wife.

In December 1977 or thereabout, a property known as No 30 Jalan Gaharu, Singapore, was purchased and registered in the names of the plaintiff and the defendant as joint tenants.
The price of the property was $76,000, and the initial deposit of $7,600 was paid by the defendant. The balance of $60,000 was paid by way of a loan taken from Credit POSB Pte Ltd (`POSB`), and as security therefor the property was mortgaged to POSB. In accordance with the terms of the mortgage the plaintiff opened a savings account in her name with Post Office Savings Bank, and a minimum sum of $3,000 was kept in her account. From December 1977 to December 1979 all the instalment payments to POSB were made by the defendant but through the plaintiff`s account with the bank. The house was renovated and improved. The plaintiff moved into the house in or about May 1978 and lived with the defendant as his wife until early February 1979. Sometime in early February 1979 the plaintiff and the defendant had a quarrel, as a result of which the plaintiff left the house. Thereafter, attempts were made by the defendant to effect a reconciliation and the plaintiff returned to the house to clean and maintain it. She looked after the house until about early August 1979. On 11 August 1979, the plaintiff saw the defendant with yet another woman: they were about to enter the house but turned away when they saw the plaintiff. The plaintiff then telephoned the defendant`s wife and learned that no divorce proceedings had been instituted. The plaintiff left the house intending never to return to the defendant.

Thereafter, the mortgage instalments were paid directly by the defendant to POSB.
However, by a letter of 19 July 1982, POSB informed the plaintiff that a sum of $2,707.58 had been deducted from her account, being the instalment payments for May, June and July 1982; the defendant was then in default of payment of the loan instalments. Subsequently, there were attempts unsuccessfully made by the parties to resolve the matter relating to the property. On 13 October 1982, the plaintiff initiated these proceedings in Originating Summons No 618 of 1982 seeking an order that the property be sold and that the proceeds of sale after payment of the amount secured on the property be divided between the plaintiff and the defendant in a manner as may be just. On 13 April 1984 an order was made directing the originating summons to proceed under O 28 r 8 and the affidavits filed to stand as pleadings. Eventually, the matter came on for hearing before Lai Kew Chai J.

At the hearing, the plaintiff`s sister, Rosie Woon, gave evidence.
She testified that at the material time the relationship carried on between the plaintiff and the defendant had caused a great deal of unhappiness to her mother, as the defendant was a married man. She said that one afternoon in July 1976, the defendant came to the house with the plaintiff and spoke to her mother. Rosie Woon herself was present. The defendant assured her mother that his relationship with the plaintiff was real, that he was instituting divorce proceedings against his wife, that she was `like a black pearl in the deep blue sea`, that he intended to marry the plaintiff, that there was nothing to worry about and that his intentions were honourable. He further told her that he intended to purchase a house for the plaintiff. As a result of the meeting, her mother relented; the defendant subsequently was accepted and was introduced to other members of the family. Rosie Woon herself also said that she accepted that the defendant was sincere.

The plaintiff`s evidence was as follows.
She said that she met the defendant on 3 December 1975. At first she did not know of his marital status and she believed that he was single. They became very close. Later she discovered that he was married. She wanted to leave him but was assured by him that he would marry her as soon as he could get a divorce from his wife. The plaintiff`s mother on learning that the defendant was married objected very strongly to their relationship. Hence, an arrangement was made for him to see her mother and to convince her of his intention. The plaintiff confirmed what her sister said of the meeting the defendant had with her mother in her presence and in the presence of her sister. She said that the purchase of the house was first mentioned by the defendant to her mother during that conversation. The plaintiff said that she repeatedly wanted to leave him but he assured her that he would divorce his wife and marry her. She further testified that in order to prove that he really loved her he said that he would buy a house as a gift of love to her and that this would show that his intentions were real. The plaintiff said she believed him. They went about looking for a house and eventually found No 30 Jalan Gaharu, which was a very convenient place for them. She said that initially he wanted to purchase the house and put it in the plaintiff`s name, but subsequently he changed his mind and suggested that the property be transferred to them as joint tenants. She said that his reason for so doing was that in case she should walk out on him one day as she had been saying that she would leave him. According to the plaintiff, the reason for the purchase of the house was that it was meant to be a gift of love to her and that he would marry her and that the house would be their matrimonial home. The purchase of the house was completed in December 1977, and after frequent persuasions by the defendant the plaintiff moved in on 1 May 1978. They lived together like husband and wife for nine months. On 11 August 1979 the plaintiff saw the defendant going to the house with another girl. She thereupon made up her mind and left him. Before doing so, she telephoned the defendant`s wife and found out that the defendant did not ask for a divorce.

The defendant in his testimony confirmed that he first met the plaintiff 1975 when she was working in William Jacks & Co (S) Pte Ltd.
Thereafter they went out together. Later, in early 1976, on being queried by the plaintiff about his marital status he told her that he was married; the plaintiff cried and he had to pacify her. He told her that `one day we would probably be married`. At a later date, he did tell the plaintiff that he would divorce his wife. He confirmed that he had a meeting with the plaintiff`s mother. He denied that at that meeting the question of purchase of a house was put forward. He said that after speaking to the plaintiff`s mother, he and the plaintiff continued seeing each other and he even went to some of the family`s functions. He said he wanted to buy a place where they could have some privacy and that the plaintiff was aware that they wanted a place where they could carry on their relationship. He conceded that she did threaten to leave him because he was married. With regard to the purchase of the house, the defendant said that at first he wanted to purchase it only in his name but he found that he could not do so as he was still owning a flat in Jurong Town. He therefore suggested that the plaintiff`s name be inserted. He said that the plaintiff agreed that if she should leave him she would transfer her interest back to him. He said that the purchase of the house was completed in December 1977 and that the plaintiff moved into the house on 1 May 1978. He said that the plaintiff on that day came to the house crying because her mother had accused her of taking something from the house. The plaintiff wanted to stay there. They lived together as man and wife for about eight to nine months. She left the house after that period as a result of a quarrel they had. Thereafter, off and on she would come back to the house. He confirmed that he did say on a few occasions that if they got married they would live in that house. He denied that the house was a gift of love to her.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the learned judge held as follows:

Having considered all the evidence, I find that the defendant had expressly agreed to purchase the property for the plaintiff absolutely. He caused his name to appear as a joint tenant purely in his own mind as a mechanism to have some hold over the plaintiff and to prevent her from walking out on him, which she ultimately did after discovering that he attempted to bring another woman to the property. On the evidence, she did not agree to the joint tenancy. I accept her evidence and that of PW1 which relate to the circumstances and the common intention of both parties in relation to the beneficial interest of the property. The defendant was untruthful when he claimed that the property was purchased purely as a `love` nest and that she had agreed to transfer her joint tenancy to him if she were to walk out on him.

He then made an order declaring the plaintiff to be the owner of the property absolutely and ordered that the property be sold and the net proceeds of sale be paid to the plaintiff.
He further ordered the defendant to deliver vacant possession of the property by the end of November 1989. Against that decision, this appeal is now brought.

Before us, counsel for the defendant argued that since substantially the entire purchase price of the property was paid by the defendant, the plaintiff not having made any significant contribution towards the purchase thereof was not

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8 cases
  • Wong Kam Fong Anne v Ang Ann Liang
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 22 December 1992
    ...Leng [1992] 2 SLR (R) 961; [1992] 2 SLR 872 (refd) Rimmer v Rimmer [1953] 1 QB 63 (refd) Tan Thiam Loke v Woon Swee Kheng Christina [1991] 2 SLR (R) 595; [1992] 1 SLR 232 (refd) Wang Shi Huah Karen v Wong King Cheung Kevin [1992] 2 SLR (R) 172; [1992] 2 SLR 1025 (refd) Wee Ah Lian v Teo Sia......
  • Shi Fang v Koh Pee Huat
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
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    ... ... , which was endorsed by this court in Tan Thiam Loke v Woon Swee Kheng Christina [1992] 1 SLR ... ...
  • Chan Yuen Lan v See Fong Mun
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 24 June 2014
    ...(refd) Sivritas v Sivritas [2008] VSC 374 (refd) Stack v Dowden [2007] 2 AC 432 (not folld) Tan Thiam Loke v Woon Swee Kheng Christina [1991] 2 SLR (R) 595; [1992] 1 SLR 232 (refd) Thompson v Hurst [2012] EWCA Civ 1752 (refd) United Overseas Bank Ltd v Giok Bie Jao [2012] SGHC 56 (refd) Van......
  • Ong Chai Soon v Ong Chai Koon and others
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    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 22 April 2022
    ...a claim under a common intention constructive trust (see the decision of this court in Tan Thiam Loke v Woon Swee Kheng Christina [1991] 2 SLR(R) 595 at [18] (citing the decision of the House of Lords in Lloyds Bank Plc v Rosset [1991] 1 AC 107 at 132–133); Chan Yuen Lan at [97]; and the Hi......
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2 books & journal articles
  • Case Note
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2015, December 2015
    • 1 December 2015
    ...of common intention can be inferred and this promotes certainty and saves judicial time. 102Tan Thiam Loke v Woon Swee Kheng Christina[1991] 2 SLR(R) 595 and Tan Poh Soon v Phua Sin Yin[1995] 2 SLR(R) 583 both applied the common intention constructive trust approach in ascertaining the bene......
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 1995, December 1995
    • 1 December 1995
    ...Ch 638; Lloyds Bank v Rossett[1991] 1 AC 107. 60 Grant v Edwards; Lloyds Bank v Rossett applied in Tan Thiam Lake v Woon Swee Keng[1992] 1 SLR 232. 61 [1994] 3 SLR 881 at pp. 893. See also ftnte 25. 62 Section 160(2) Land Titles Act. 63 [1994] 3 SLR 881 at pp. 893 and 894. 64 Section 46(3) ......

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