Case Update: Simgood Pte Ltd v MLC Shipbuilding Sdn Bhd [2015] SGHC 303

  1. The plaintiff succeeded inter alia in a claim in detinue.
  2. A claim in detinue lies at the suit of a person who has a right to immediate possession of goods against a person who is in possession of the goods and who, upon proper demand and without lawful excuse, fails or refuses to deliver them up.: [159].
  3. There are important distinctions between a cause of action in conversion and a cause of action in detinue. The former is a single wrongful act and the cause of action accrues at the date of the conversion; the latter is a continuing cause of action which accrues at the date of the wrongful refusal to deliver up the goods and continues until delivery up of the goods or judgment in the action for detinue. Demand for delivery up of the chattel was an essential requirement of an action in detinue, and detinue lay only when at the time of the demand for delivery up of the chattel made by the person entitled to possession the defendant was either in actual possession of it or was estopped from denying that he was still in possession: [159], [161].
  4. A proper demand is crucial to ground an action in detinue because it puts the person in possession of the goods clearly on notice that he should no longer retain the goods but instead deliver them up to the person entitled to possession of them. Two justifications are provided for this requirement. First, the requirement of a demand ensures fairness to the person in possession of the goods by giving him reasonable notice that he is to put the goods in a state of readiness for delivery. Second, the requirement of a demand fixes a clear and fair point in time at which the cause of action in detinue arises: [163].
  5. Judgment in a successful action in detinue may take a number of forms. One of those is a judgment for the return of the chattel or recovery of its value as assessed together with damages for wrongful retention: [168].

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