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ENGELIN TEH PRACTICE LLC

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Recently ETP won for 18 of our clients a case against a lawyer who did not have a will duly signed by two witnesses in the presence of the testator. This made the will invalid and our clients, the 18 plaintiffs, were awarded their claim as well as indemnity costs against the Defendants


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AEL and Others v Cheoh Yeoh & Associates and Another [2014] SGHC 129

Our 18 clients were the beneficiaries under a will, which was found to be invalid after the testator’s death due to the negligence of the defendants. The first defendant was the firm of solicitors engaged by the testator and the second defendant was the solicitor having conduct of the matter.

The said invalidity arose due to there being only 1 witness to the will, in contravention of the Wills Act which mandates that there be a minimum of 2 witnesses.

The novel issue of law which arose is whether the defendants owed a duty of care (as solicitors) to our clients (as the beneficiaries of the invalid will), despite the fact that the defendants were not engaged by our clients.

The central argument canvassed for our clients was that the seminal decisions of the English High Court in Ross v Caunters [1980] 1 Ch 297 (“Ross”), the House of Lords in White v Jones [1995] 2 AC 207 (“White”), and the High Court of Australia in Hill v Van Erp [1997] 188 CLR 159 (“Hill”), are authorities for the proposition that a duty of care is owed in the circumstances of our clients’ case. We also submitted that such a duty could fit within the framework of the test formulated by the Singapore Court of Appeal in Spandeck Engineering (S) Pte Ltd v Defence Science & Technology Agency [2007] 4 SLR (R) 100 (“Spandeck”).

Submissions and Reply Submissions were tendered on 12 March 2014 and on 14 April 2014, respectively.

In the landmark decision in Anwar Patrick Adrian and Another v Ng Chong & Hue LLC and Another [2014] SGCA 34, which was decided 29 May 2014, the Singapore Court of Appeal held that Ross, White and Hill apply in Singapore and that the same were compatible with the test in Spandeck.

In a 66-page judgment released on 2 July 2014, the Honourable Justice Chan Seng Onn granted our clients’ claims in full. The said judgment received widespread news coverage.

Our clients’ case was conducted by our Senior Consultant, Mr Andrew Ho who can be reached at +65 6411 5819 (DID) or at andrewho@etplaw.com .

The Defendants’ appeal to the Singapore Court of Appeal is pending and is scheduled to be heard in January 2015.

 


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