Case Update: Winsta Holding Pte Ltd and another v Sim Poh Ping and others [2018] SGHC 239 – Singapore High Court rules on but for causation for equitable compensation

Significance: Singapore High Court (Coram: Chua Lee Ming J) held that AIB Group (UK) plc v Mark Redler & Co Solicitors [2014] 3 WLR 1367 (“AIB”) should be followed in that but-for causation should be established by the claimant to obtain equitable compensation where there has been a breach of trust.

Equitable compensation for breach of trust aims to provide the pecuniary equivalent of performance of the trust (see AIB at [93]). It should not matter whether a fiduciary belongs to a well-established category of fiduciaries or not, or whether the breach is of a core duty or is innocent: at [193].

The Court held that there is no reason in principle why the evidential burden on causation should shift to the fiduciary on the mere ground that the principal proves that the breach “is in some way connected” to the loss. The legal burden of proof remains on the principal to prove that his loss is causally linked to the fiduciary’s breach of duties. The principal’s evidential burden is to adduce evidence of loss that is causally linked to the breach: at [194].

This decision appears to be in conflict with that in Beyonics Technology Ltd v Goh Chan Peng [2016] SGHC 120, where the High Court held that the Brickenden approach that simply proving the loss is “in some way connected” to the breach would suffice for established categories of fiduciary relationships. In the light of these two conflicting High Court decisions, I look forward to a Court of Appeal decision clarifying this area of law once and for all.

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