Teo Eng Chuan v Nirumalan V Kanapathi Pillay (No 2)

JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date08 October 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGCA 40
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 45 of 2003
Date08 October 2003
Published date17 December 2003
Plaintiff CounselLiew Teck Huat (Niru & Co)
Citation[2003] SGCA 40
Defendant CounselRajinder Singh and Harpal Singh (B Rao & K S Rajah)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Subject MatterAppeal against increase of damages by $130,000,Appeals,Whether amount or value of subject matter at trial is $250,000 or less,Whether leave to appeal required under s 34(2)(a) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 1999 Rev Ed),Civil Procedure,Leave

Delivered by Chao Hick Tin JA

1 This was a motion filed by the applicant, Nirumalan Kanapathi Pillay (Pillay), to strike out a notice of appeal (CA No. 45/2003) lodged by the respondent, Teo Eng Chuan (Teo), on the ground that prior to filing the notice of appeal Teo had not obtained the leave of court, as required by s 34(2)(a) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, (Cap 322) (SCJA). At the conclusion of the hearing, we dismissed the motion as we did not think leave was required. We now give our reasons for the decision.

The facts

2 Briefly, the facts giving rise to the filing of the notice of appeal are as follows. In July 1991, Pillay was injured when the taxi he was travelling in as a passenger was involved in a motor accident. He suffered a whiplash injury to the spine with posterior disc prolapse at the C5/C6 and C6/C7 levels. In 1994, he instituted an action against Teo for damages for the injury suffered. In May 1995, he obtained an interlocutory judgment, with damages to be assessed. There was some delay in pursuing the assessment of damages. However, nothing turns on that.

3 On 30 August 2002, the Assistant Registrar awarded Pillay a total of $100,000 for general damages, made up of –

$20,000 for pain and suffering

$20,000 for cost of future surgery

$60,000 for loss of future earning capacity


In addition, the Assistant Registrar also awarded Pillay special damages of $35,361.78, making a grand total of $135,361.78.

4 We should also mention that two other sums, in pound sterling and Australian dollars, were also awarded by the Assistant Registrar to Pillay as special damages. As these two sums do not in any way alter the issue that arose for consideration of the motion, there is no necessity to add their equivalent values to the sums awarded in Singapore dollars.

5 Being dissatisfied with the award for general damages, Pillay appealed. The judge-in-chambers increased the sum for pain and suffering to $30,000 and that for loss of future earning capacity to $180,000. He did not disturb the award for future surgery. In short, the judge increased the total award by $130,000, from $135,361.78 to $265,361.78. Teo’s appeal to the Court of Appeal (now pending) relates to these two items of claim on which the judge had enhanced the quantum.

6 Pillay’s contention, in seeking to strike out the notice of appeal, was on the ground that as the amount in dispute on appeal to the Court of Appeal involved only $130,000, Teo should have first obtained leave of court under s 34(2)(a) of the SCJA before an appeal could be lodged.


7 The question raised by the motion concerned the proper interpretation of s 34(2)(a) which reads:-

“Except with the leave of the Court of Appeal or a Judge, no appeal shall be brought to the Court of Appeal …

(a) where the amount or value of the subject matter at the trial is $250,000 … or less”

Two terms in this provision required particular attention, namely, “amount or value of the subject matter” and “trial”.

8 There are two previous decisions of this court which had in some way helped to elucidate the two terms. In Spandeck Engineering (S) Pte Ltd v Yong Qiang Construction [1999] 4 SLR 401, it was held that the word “trial” should be construed purposively and on that basis it meant:-

“… a hearing, whether in open court or in chambers, in which the judge determines the matter in issue before him, whether it be an issue of fact or law.”

There, the court rejected the argument that a “trial” meant only a hearing before a court at which evidence was adduced, arguments were canvassed and questions of fact and/or law were finally decided. Various anomalies that could arise if such a narrow interpretation were to be given to the word “trial” were also referred to.

9 In Tan Chiang Brother’s Marble (S) Pte Ltd v Permasteelisa Pacific Holdings Ltd [2002] 2 SLR 225, the court held that the term “at the trial” could not be interpreted to mean “at the appeal” without doing violence to its plain meaning.

10 Pillay accepted the rulings in these two cases. What his counsel argued was that, in the context of our present case, the “trial” took place before the Assistant Registrar. Unlike Spandeck Engineering and Tan Chiang Brother’s Marble, where the claims were for liquidated sums, here the claim was essentially for general damages; the amount was unspecified. In the circumstances, the only possible point of reference was the amount awarded by the Assistant Registrar, which in total (even inclusive of the special damages in foreign currencies) fell far short of the sum of $250,000. When the matter went on “appeal” to the judge-in-chambers, the Judge increased the general damages by $130,000 and this enhanced amount is the sum which Teo wishes to take up to the Court of Appeal. Thus, the subject matter of the hearing before the judge-in-chambers was in respect of the increased amount of $130,000. As this sum was less than $250,000, leave of court was required.

11 However, counsel for Teo argued that in relation to an assessment of damages, the two stage hearing - that before the Assistant Registrar and that before the judge-in-chambers on “appeal” - should be viewed collectively. The fact that on “appeal’ to the judge, some items of award were...

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6 cases
  • Hailisen Shipping Co Ltd v Pan-United Shipyard Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 6 November 2003
    ...held that the term “at the trial” should not be interpreted to mean “at the appeal”. 14 In Teo Eng Chuan v Nirumalan v Kanapathi Pillay [2003] SGCA 40 (a decision of 8 October 2003 which is yet to be published) this Court was confronted with the question as to the interpretation of the phra......
  • Tan Boon Heng v Lau Pang Cheng David
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 4 September 2013
    ...(R) 1101; [2009] 4 SLR 1101 (refd) Teo Ai Ling v Koh Chai Kwang [2010] 2 SLR 1037 (refd) Teo Eng Chuan v Nirumalan V Kanapathi Pillay [2003] 4 SLR (R) 442; [2003] 4 SLR 442 (refd) Teo Seng Kiat v Goh Hwa Teck [2003] 1 SLR (R) 333; [2003] 1 SLR 333 (refd) Thorben Langvad Linneberg v Leong Me......
  • Ong Wah Chuan v Seow Hwa Chuan
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 26 April 2011
    ...Ltd v Permasteelisa Pacific Holdings Ltd [2002] 1 SLR (R) 633; [2002] 2 SLR 225 (refd) Teo Eng Chuan v Nirumalan V Kanapathi Pillay [2003] 4 SLR (R) 442; [2003] 4 SLR 442 (refd) Rules of Court (Cap 322,R 5, 2006 Rev Ed) O 18r 12 (1A) (b) Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed......
  • Fong Khim Ling v Tan Teck Ann
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 10 February 2014
    ...Ltd v Permasteelisa Pacific Holdings Ltd [2002] 1 SLR (R) 633; [2002] 2 SLR 225 (refd) Teo Eng Chuan v Nirumalan V Kanapathi Pillay [2003] 4 SLR (R) 442; [2003] 4 SLR 442 (refd) Virtual Map (Singapore) Pte Ltd v Singapore Land Authority [2009] 2 SLR (R) 558; [2009] 2 SLR 558 (refd) Subordin......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Civil Procedure
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2003, December 2003
    • 1 December 2003
    ...The other reported decision on leave to appeal was that of the Court of Appeal in Teo Eng Chuan v Nirumalan V Kanapathi Pillay (No 2)[2003] 4 SLR 442. In that case, a plaintiff commenced an action for personal injuries seeking damages of $1.5m. He was awarded $135,361.78 by the assistant re......
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2013, December 2013
    • 1 December 2013
    ...seven days after the decision. 26 OpenNet Pte Ltd v Info-Communications Development Authority of Singapore[2013] 2 SLR 880 at [29]. 27[2003] 4 SLR(R) 442. 28[2009] 2 SLR(R) 558. 29Dorsey James Michael v World Sport Group Pte Ltd[2013] 3 SLR 354 at [76]–[77]. 30Singapore Parliamentary Debate......

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