Yip Jenn Yeuan v Ng Ah Chen

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeChoo Han Teck J
Judgment Date31 January 2005
Neutral Citation[2005] SGHC 21
Citation[2005] SGHC 21
Published date01 February 2005
Plaintiff CounselLim Chor Pee (Chor Pee and Partners)
Defendant CounselChong Pik Wah (Lim Kia Tong and Partners)
Subject MatterContract,Contractual terms,Rules of construction,Whether cause of action could arise from "without prejudice" negotiations between solicitors on behalf of clients,Formation,Whether parties intended to agree on liability and damages together or separately,Whether agreement on liability and/or quantum reached,Tort,Negligence,Damages,Whether plaintiff could pursue assessment of damages as contract claim based on agreement as to liability after tort action became time-barred

31 January 2005

Judgment reserved.

Choo Han Teck J:

1 This was an action commenced by the plaintiff to enforce a settlement agreement that he alleged had been concluded between his solicitors and the defendant’s solicitors in respect of a previous suit filed as Magistrate’s Court Suit No 14645 of 2002. In that action (“the tort claim”), the plaintiff sued the defendant for damages in negligence arising from a road accident on 27 September 2000. On that day, the plaintiff’s motorcycle collided with the defendant’s car when the defendant’s car emerged from the driveway of a motor car showroom at 911 Bukit Timah Road. The plaintiff, then 28 years old, suffered serious injuries.

2 Eventually, the solicitors agreed on the question of liability, namely, that the defendant would agree to be liable for 90% of the blame and the plaintiff would accept contributory negligence of 10% on his part. There was no agreement on quantum at all. The plaintiff’s Writ expired in the meantime and the action became time-barred on 27 September 2003. The plaintiff then commenced this action (“the contract claim”) on 2 November 2003. It was in the contract claim that the plaintiff sought a summary judgment for damages to be assessed. His application was dismissed by the deputy registrar on 6 May 2004 and he appealed to the district judge, Ms Foo Tuat Yien, who dismissed his appeal on 8 October 2004. The plaintiff then appealed to this court against the District Court’s judgment ([2004] SGDC 281).

3 The events should now be set out in detail in chronological order before the law is considered. The accident on which the tort claim was based occurred on 27 September 2000. On 3 April 2002, the plaintiff’s solicitors wrote to the defendant’s solicitors notifying them that the plaintiff was holding the defendant liable for the accident, and on 4 June 2002, the plaintiff issued the Writ of Summons in the tort claim. The defendant’s solicitors wrote to the plaintiff’s solicitors on 11 June 2002 to say that they had just been briefed and requested the plaintiff “to hold [his] hands in the matter”. That is legal parlance, particularly in tortious actions, which is understood by lawyers to mean that no further steps in the proceedings are to be taken without notifying the other party. The plaintiff’s solicitors replied the following day to say that they had not served the Writ but in any event, the Writ was inadvertently commenced in the Magistrate’s Court instead of the District Court. The letter further stated that the plaintiff would withhold service of the fresh Writ pending the defendant’s reply to the plaintiff’s solicitor’s letter of 3 April 2002 asking if the defendant would admit liability. Negotiations continued and on 14 October 2002, the defendant’s solicitors replied. The relevant portions of the reply state:

We would therefore be grateful if you could persuade/advise your client to reconsider our proposal on liability and revert.

On quantum, please be informed that our clients would like to obtain a 2nd opinion on the need for the further operations on your client’s left ankle. Kindly let us know if your client has any objection to be re-examined by a specialist appointed by us/our clients.

On your quantification for general damages, please let us know if quantum for pain and suffering can be agreed at $20,000. For the loss of earning capacity and future medical expenses, we will revert with our clients’ instructions on same after we have received our own specialist’s report on your client’s injury.

Please let us have your client[’s] instructions on liability and on our clients’ request for a re-examination.

4 The plaintiff’s solicitors replied on 22 October 2002 to say that the plaintiff did not accept the defendant’s proposals in respect of quantum, and added that “[i]n any event, our client would like to resolve the issue of liability first before considering any reduction in quantum”. The two crucial letters forming the alleged agreement were then exchanged after that. The defendant’s solicitors wrote on 19 November 2002 to say:

We refer to your letter dated 22 October 2002.

We have our clients’ instructions to settle your client’s claim at 90%. Please take your client[’s] instructions.

As regards paragraph 4 of your letter, our clients will bear the costs of the medical re-examination and would pay the usual $50 for your client’s time and transport...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 books & journal articles
  • Tort Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2005, December 2005
    • December 1, 2005
    ...that should serve as a warning to lawyers entering into contractual agreements to settle tortious claims is Yip Jenn Yeuan v Ng Ah Chen[2005] SGHC 21. There was a road traffic accident and the plaintiff sued the defendant for damages. The defendant”s solicitors offered to settle the claim w......
  • Contract Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2005, December 2005
    • December 1, 2005
    ...by the English decision of Walford v Miles[1992] 2 AC 128. 9.4 The interesting question which arose in Yip Jenn Yeuan v Ng Ah Chen[2005] SGHC 21 was whether a settlement agreement as regards liability (but not quantum) in respect of a tort claim could form the basis of a separate action in ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT