A district judge dismissed a bid by the management corporation (MC) of The Sail @ Marina Bay for an order to remove display panels used by a dental group at its leased premises.
But this was because the MC's application to have them removed was filed as an originating summons (OS), which the judge said was not the appropriate means to resolve the dispute.
Instead, a writ action should have been filed, said District Judge Clement Tan. A writ action would typically involve a trial, discovery of documents and court examination of witnesses to settle disputes over facts.
An OS is concerned with issues of law and unlikely to involve substantial disputes of fact.
The judge held in decision grounds released on Monday that the case had such disputes, which could not be settled through written evidence alone and would benefit from witnesses being called and questioned.
The prominent and large LED panels erected by Smile Dental Surgeons in 2013 were placed just behind the glass windows of its ground-floor premises at the mixed development in Marina Boulevard.
The MC had taken issue not only with the LED panels but also with decals or stickers that Smile had placed at two locations on the premises. It claimed, among other things, that these were not approved and breached its by-laws.
Smile denied this and claimed the MC had acquiesced in the display arrangements and should not be allowed to renege.
Smile's lawyers, Mr Daniel Koh and Mr Ang Ming Hao, pointed to a series of events from November 2012 to show the MC's approval.
But the MC, represented by Mr Joseph Lee and Ms Tan Jia Hui, countered, among other things, that the current general manager of the MC had attested that the previous manager, Mr David Lim, had not approved the panels.
The judge held that Mr Lim's evidence was crucial in shedding light on what had taken place, and noted that the MC did not explain why it had been unable to procure written evidence from him.
The MC said the panels stuck out "like a sore thumb", but the court suggested more clarity on this issue. "I cannot see why or how the task of determining the aesthetics of a development or landscape should be foisted solely on the court without the benefit of hearing evidence from persons more qualified in this area or even residents of The Sail," said the judge.
He found that the arguments raised by Smile were neither "fanciful" nor "far-fetched", but this did not mean it had proven its case on the balance of probabilities.
He added that the MC should have taken up Smile's offer to convert the action into a writ action. He dismissed the suit with costs, and said the MC was free to file a new suit by writ action in relation to the claims raised in the OS.