Developer's claim against condo's MC dismissed

In his judgement grounds issued last week, Justice Kannan Ramesh also urged Lee Tat Development and Grange Heights to end their "jousting".
In his judgement grounds issued last week, Justice Kannan Ramesh also urged Lee Tat Development and Grange Heights to end their "jousting". PHOTO: ST FILE

Judge urges Lee Tat Development and Grange Heights to end spat of over 40 years

A developer's claim of millions of dollars from the management corporation (MC) of Grange Heights condominium, in a dispute involving the use of a pathway, has been dismissed by the High Court.
 

But in his judgement grounds issued last week, Justice Kannan Ramesh also urged Lee Tat Development and Grange Heights to end their "jousting", which has been going on for more than 40 years.

"It would be desirable that with the dismissal of the suit, the parties close this protracted and convoluted chapter and move on to other productive endeavours," he said.

He also noted that Lee Tat's suit over the right of way to Grange Road had been "conclusively resolved in 2008".

The Court of Appeal, ruling then in Lee Tat's favour, had hoped that "it would be the final chapter in the fractious and fractured relationship between the parties".

"Unfortunately, those words were in vain, falling on deaf ears," said Justice Ramesh.

The two parties had been "jousting with each other over five sets of proceedings", he noted. All went right up to the Court of Appeal.

TIME TO MOVE ON

It would be desirable that with the dismissal of the suit, the parties close this protracted and convoluted chapter and move on to other productive endeavours.

JUSTICE KANNAN RAMESH

The dispute began in 1974 when Lee Tat's predecessor, Collin Development, sought a court declaration that Hong Leong Holdings, the developer of Grange Heights, had no right of way across a 883 sq m strip of land for access to Grange Road.

The High Court and Court of Appeal both dismissed Collin's application.

Several more legal suits followed until 2008, when the Court of Appeal ruled that Grange Heights residents would no longer have the right of way for various reasons.

It was a landmark decision as it showed Singapore's top court could reopen civil cases it had heard and decided on previously.

But Grange Heights filed a further application, leading to a fifth suit in 2010. It lost the case.

The loss led to the current case, in which Lee Tat sought damages for the trespass before 2008, abuse of the court process, malicious prosecution and malicious falsehoods.

It was represented by Senior Counsel Chelva R. Rajah, Mr Ernest Balasubramaniam and two other lawyers. Lee Tat claimed that decades of litigation had frozen the disputed land.

Grange Heights, defended by Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng and lawyers Sngeeta Rai and Jocelyn Ngiam, argued that there were 11 judicial pronouncements in the High Court and Court of Appeal that affirmed the residents' right of way until December 2008, when access was revoked.

The condominium's residents stopped using the road after that.

They said Lee Tat could not apply the 2008 decision retroactively.

Justice Ramesh found no case for abuse of process or malicious proceedings.

He also held that Grange Heights had not made malicious falsehoods during the dispute.

He said "it would be exceptionally unfair, and antithetical to the guiding purpose of the law" to order Grange Heights residents to pay, since they had relied on the prevailing court decisions until the 2008 ruling that went against them.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'Developer's claim against condo's MC dismissed'. Print Edition | Subscribe