Teng Lien Yen v SBS Transit Ltd

CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
JudgeValerie Thean Pik Yuen
Judgment Date08 April 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGMC 10
Citation[2003] SGMC 10
Published date02 October 2003
Plaintiff CounselAnuradha Tiwary (M/s Pillai &Pillai)
Defendant CounselWilly Tay (M/s Ari Goh & Partners)

Brief facts

1 On 25 September 2001, the defendants' bus collided into the rear of the plaintiff's car whilst she was waiting at a red traffic light. On 27 September 2001, the plaintiff wrote to the defendants requesting that arrangements be made to have her motor vehicle surveyed. On 6 October 2001, the plaintiff authorised Mova Automative to act as her representative. On 5 November, the defendants sent a letter to Mova, informing them that they admitted liability and that their surveyor recommended costs of repairs at $1,100 and a repair period of 3 days. The plaintiff subsequently appointed M/s Pillai and Pillai as her solicitors. On 3 December 2001, M/s Pillai and Pillai wrote to the defendants, asking for $2,140, enclosing supporting documents such as the GIA report, repair bill, insurance certificate and rental agreement. A breakdown was also furnished at the time, with the claim quantified at $1,650 and costs of $500 requested. On 4 December 2001, the defendants followed with an offer of $1,650. Correspondence ensued between the parties on this 'global offer' of $1,650; the upshot of the letters to and fro was that the defendants were not amenable to paying the plaintiff any costs, and the plaintiff would not settle without her costs.

2 On 18 July 2002, the plaintiff gave 10 days' notice that writ was to be issued, and on 29 July, the plaintiff commenced action. On 4 October 2002, the defendants served an offer to settle upon the plaintiff, offering $1,650 as damages, but their offer this time stated that costs should be determined by the court. The offer was accepted, and the application for costs duly filed. At the hearing below, the deputy registrar awarded costs to the plaintiff of the action up to that stage in proceedings. The defendants appealed. I dismissed the registrar's appeal. The defendants thereafter filed a notice for leave to appeal from my decision, which I dismissed also. I now furnish my grounds for so doing.

Legal context

3 There was some argument before me as to whether a 'global offer' is a good one. There is no doubt that a global offer, so long as it is a liquidated sum genuinely aimed at settlement, is a good offer. This dispute is about pre-writ costs, and the legality of the plaintiff's demand for pre-writ costs.

Pre-writ costs: premise and practice

4 It is an established principle that the court may allow the recovery of costs incurred prior to litigation. In Re Gibson's Settlement Trusts [1981] 1 All ER 233, Sir Robert Megarry VC, on a review of a taxing master's standard-basis taxation, made clear that all costs reasonably incurred for the purposes of litigation were regarded as part of the costs of proceedings.

5 In John Laing Construction v Dastur [1987] 3 All ER 248, the plaintiffs' solicitors wrote the defendants' insurers a letter asking for UKP 137.85 with costs. The insurers replied enclosing a cheque of UKP 137.85 and stating that the defendant was not liable for costs. At the county court, the plaintiffs...

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