Prudential Assurance Co Singapore Pte Ltd v Tan Shou Yi Peter [2018] SGHCR 4 – Singapore High Court Assistant Registrar rules on interrogatories about authenticity of audio recordings

The High Court Assistant Registrar (“AR”) summarised helpful guidance on when interrogatories may be ordered under Order 26, rule 1 of the Rules of Court.

Interrogatories is a form of discovery of facts (and not documents) to be utilised early in the proceedings to focus the dispute and save costs.

Interrogatories are more readily allowed where (at [13]):

“(a) they direct the parties’ attention to the central issues in contention at an early stage, thus reducing the need for counsel to focus time and effort on peripheral and uncontested matters;

(b) they have direct bearing on the issues in dispute, and will ease the subsequent passage of cross-examination by delineating the precise matters in contention;

(c) there would be real, substantial and irremediable prejudice if the interrogatories are refused (although these are not prerequisites to finding that interrogatories are necessary);

(d) they can be answered without difficulty and can potentially dispose of entire lines of questioning, or even the need to call certain witnesses; or

(e) the information sought, if introduced only in cross-examination, may catch opposing counsel unaware and create the need for adjournments and a flurry of interlocutory applications to address the new developments.”

Interrogatories may more readily be refused where (at [14]):

“(a) they are oppressive in nature, in that they exceed the legitimate requirements of the circumstances at hand, or impose a burden on the interrogated party that is entirely disproportionate to the benefit to be gained by the interrogating party;

(b) they amount to an attempt to fish for information, in the hope of stumbling upon something that will support the interrogating party’s case;

(c) they are of a more ancillary nature that are more appropriately sought in cross-examination;

(d) they concern matters which a witness will testify to at trial;

(e) they are intended merely to obtain the identities of witnesses and documents which the other party intends to produce; or

(f) they seek mere evidence which does not form any part of the material facts in dispute.”

The Court accepted that interrogatories can be issued in relation to authenticity in the event that authenticity is disputed (Swain v Hest Australia Ltd v Anor [2003] TASSC 104): at [20].

The general proposition that interrogatories should not be allowed to seek admissions of fact from a witness who would be attending at trial ought not be interpreted as an absolute prohibition of interrogatories against all persons who would be witnesses at trial, regardless of the circumstances at hand. In particular, the proposition should not be taken to preclude the administering of interrogatories, where allowing the same would be entirely in line with O 26 r 1(1) of the Rules of Court, viz, necessary for the fair disposal of the matter or for saving costs: at [21].

In Foo Ko Hing v Foo Chee Heng [2002] 1 SLR(R) 664 (HC), the High Court allowed the administration of interrogatories on a non-party witness (pursuant to O 26A r 1 of the Rules of Court) notwithstanding that he would be giving oral testimony at trial. The court’s rationale for doing so was to avoid disruptions to the trial, in view that the witness in question was not willing to provide an affidavit of evidence-in-chief: at [22].

The Court allowed part of the interrogatories in this case for several reasons.

Allowing the “Primary Queries” now would potentially dispose of entire lines of questioning and expert inquiry. The answers to the Primary Queries will provide clarity, in advance of trial, on the precise dispute in relation to an important aspect of authenticity that may otherwise involve the furnishing of a large range of evidence, including expert evidence. This would thus avoid incurring costs. See [24].

There is little reason to believe that the Defendant would offer the relevant information in his affidavit of evidence-in-chief. Furthermore, provision of information only in the affidavit of evidence-in-chief would be too late. See [25].

While the information sought in the interrogatories may be potentially obtained from other witnesses, the Defendant’s responses may well be in the nature of admissions: at [26].

The Defendant would not face “insurmountable difficulties” in answering the interrogatories, and allowing such interrogatories would not cause prejudice to his challenge to authenticity of the recordings: at [27].

Case Update: Intas Pharmaceuticals Ltd v DealStreetAsia Pte Ltd [2017] SGHC 74 – pre-action interrogatories and pre-action discovery allowed

Intas Pharmaceuticals Ltd v DealStreetAsia Pte Ltd [2017] SGHC 74

Significance: Singapore High Court allows pre-action interrogatories and pre-action discovery under Order 26A and Order 24 of the Rules of Court. The Court found that it was just and necessary in all the circumstances to grant the pre-action disclosure sought by the plaintiff; it was held to be entitled to a disclosure of facts sufficient to give it a reasonable basis upon which to form a view on whether it can plead a viable case (in this case of malicious falsehood). However, the Court disallowed pre-actiion interrogatories and discovery for information regarding certain third parties who were alleged sources of information regarding an allegedly maliciously false news article on a website. The Court found that there was insufficient basis for a real possibility that the plaintiff would bring a claim against these third parties in Singapore for malicious falsehood (a Singapore nexus being required).

Shi Wen Yue v Shi Minjiu and another [2016] SGHCR 8 – HC AR holds Chinese judicial settlement enforceable

Shi Wen Yue v Shi Minjiu and another [2016] SGHCR 8 – AR holds that PRC judicial settlement enforceable not as a foreign judgment but an agreement

Significance: An AR exercising powers as a High Court judge held that a mediation paper / judicial settlement made in Chinese proceedings pursuant to a settlement could be enforced in the Singapore court not as a foreign judgment based on the application of the laws of China, but an agreement under the common law.

Legislative Update: Choice of Court Agreements Bill

Legislative Update: Choice of Court Agreements Bill

The Choice of Court Agreements Bill (Bill No. 14/2016) was introduced in the Singapore Parliament on 4 April 2016. This Bill enables Singapore to give effect to the Convention on Choice of Court Agreements done at The Hague on 30 June 2005 (the Convention). The Convention establishes an international legal regime for enforcing an exclusive choice of court agreement concluded in a civil or commercial matter in an international case, and provides for the recognition and enforcement of any foreign judgment given by, and the enforcement of any judicial settlement approved by or concluded before, a court of a Contracting State designated in an exclusive choice of court agreement.

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Case Update: Peh Yeng Yok v Tembusu Systems Pte Ltd [2016] SGHC 36 – search order / anton piller order set aside

Peh Yeng Yok v Tembusu Systems Pte Ltd [2016] SGHC 36

[14]: A search order is a draconian measure and will only be granted if necessary in the interests of justice. In line with this overriding principle of necessity, a plaintiff applying for a search order must show that:

(a) there is an extremely strong prima facie case;
(b) the damage that would be suffered if a search order was not granted is very serious;
(c) there is a real possibility that the defendant(s) would destroy relevant documents; and
(d) the effect of the search order would not be out of proportion to the legitimate object of the order.

See Asian Corporate Services (SEA) Pte Ltd v Eastwest Management Ltd (Singapore Branch) [2006] 1 SLR(R) 901 (“Asian Corporate Services”) at [14].

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Case Update: Accent Delight International Ltd v Bouvier, Yves Charles Edgar [2016] SGHC 40 – forum non conveniens; non-availability of substantive claims under foreign law

Accent Delight International Ltd v Bouvier, Yves Charles Edgar [2016] SGHC 40

Significance: High Court held on application of Spiliada principles and the doctrine of forum non conveniens that Singapore proceedings should not be stayed in favour of Switzerland because, among other reasons, the plaintiffs may not be able to pursue their substantive claims under Swiss law. The Court also considered that the purported disadvantages of having the dispute determined in Singapore are neutralised by having the dispute heard in the Singapore International Commercial Court.

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Case Update: La Dolce Vita Fine Dining Co Ltd v Deutsche Bank AG [2016] SGHC 3 – SGHC orders pre-action discovery against banks to disclose customer account information

Significance: Singapore High Court orders banks to disclose customer account information to plaintiffs in respect of the plaintiffs’ claims against the banks’ customer in an application for pre-action discovery under O 24 r 6(5) and/or the Court’s inherent jurisdiction (i.e. a Norwich Pharmacal order).

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Case Update: Mok Kah Hong v Zheng Zhuan Yao [2016] SGCA 8 – SGCA orders 8 months’ prison for husband who defied court orders in civil / divorce case

Mok Kah Hong v Zheng Zhuan Yao [2016] SGCA 8

Significance: Court of Appeal orders a party in a civil not criminal case (divorce proceedings: division of matrimonial assets) to 8 months’ imprisonment for defying court orders, being liable for civil contempt of court. The Court set out helpful legal principles and guidelines on committal proceedings for civil contempt of court.

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Case Update: SIC College of Business and Technology Pte Ltd v Yeo Poh Siah and others [2016] SGCA 5 – CA orders retrial as evidence was wrongly rejected; costs against non-party; security for costs

SIC College of Business and Technology Pte Ltd v Yeo Poh Siah and others [2016] SGCA 5

Significance: Singapore Court of Appeal orders retrial of an action because the trial judge had wrongly rejected certain key evidence from being admitted for purposes of the counterclaim because it was brought for purposes of the main claim, which had been dismissed.

Significance (2): Singapore Court of Appeal opined that order for security for costs against plaintiff company may not have been justifiable.

Significance (3): Singapore Court of Appeal held that lower court’s order for non-party to pay costs of the proceedings was wrong.

Court Room Trial of Four British Seamen at Canton

Continue reading “Case Update: SIC College of Business and Technology Pte Ltd v Yeo Poh Siah and others [2016] SGCA 5 – CA orders retrial as evidence was wrongly rejected; costs against non-party; security for costs”