Contractor loses appeal in case of building facade recladding

The Court of Three Judges has thrown out an appeal against a judgment last year that found Centennial Tower's owner was justified in recladding the entire facade of the 35-storey building after two stone panels fell from it.

It ordered the building's main contractor Dragages Singapore and subcontractor Builders Shop to pay damages and fund the recladding, which could cost up to $20 million.

The case involves an incident in 2004 in which a granite stone panel weighing more than 100kg fell off the facade of the Temasek Avenue building. A similar panel fell off in 2011.

No one was hurt in the first incident, but Centennial Tower's owner Millenia sued Dragages and Builders Shop in 2006. A settlement was reached in 2007.

Four years after that settlement, a second stone panel fell from the tower, hurting two passers-by and causing property damage.

Millenia, represented by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh and others, began legal proceedings in 2012 against Dragages, Builders Shop and three engineering firms involved.

Millenia failed in its suit against the engineering firms.

One of them, Arup Singapore, represented by Morgan Lewis Stamford, won in a counterclaim for an indemnity relating to third-party claims that it faced over the rectification works.

But the same ruling said Millenia was entitled to damages and recladding costs, which prompted Dragages, represented by Allen & Gledhill, to lodge an appeal.

The firm argued that there was a "temporal limit" of 15 years on its obligations under a deed of warranty for its work.

Dragages contended that this would mean it had no obligations in relation to defects that materialised after the expiry of the warranty period, which was until 2012, said court documents seen by The Straits Times.

But Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong noted this month that such a point had not been made during the 57-day hearing for the case, and should not be taken during appeal.

They cited two reasons for this ruling. One was that it would require new evidence to be introduced and examined, which is not generally allowed at the appeal stage.

The second reason for refusing the application is that the new point was without merit, said the court.

"It is evident that the primary obligation on the appellant was to complete the project in a way that was fit for its purpose and free from defects," the court added.

"That purpose incorporated a design life of 50 years."

The trial exposed that there were defects and that the building was not fit for its design life of 50 years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2019, with the headline 'Contractor loses appeal in case of building facade recladding'. Print Edition | Subscribe