Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Builder's Appeal Thrown Out

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 9, 2008

SINGAPORE'S highest court has thrown out a lawsuit from a contractor that claimed its reputation was damaged by a woman who sent an angry email complaining about leaks in her condo.

The three-judge Court of Appeal called the defamation lawsuit by Hytech Builders a 'tempest in a teacup' on Tuesday and said the firm's beef was 'completely blown out of proportion'.

The decision upheld a lower court ruling and ended a 20-month legal battle between Hytech and stockbroker Goh Teng Poh.

The feud was sparked in Jan 2007 after Ms Goh, frustrated that leaks in her year-old condominium in Ipoh Lane had not been fixed, shot an e-mail message to the building's developer.

In it, she called into question the contractor's financial health.

Hytech, the main contractor for the condominium, sued her for damages. Through lawyers from Rajah & Tann, it claimed the letter tarnished its reputation with CDL, a major real estate player here.

When the case was first heard in the High Court last year, Justice Judith Prakash agreed that the statement was defamatory.

But she said Ms Goh sent the email with the intent of getting the leak fixed, and not to damage Hytech's reputation. Ms Goh was not liable for damages as she was driven by a duty to pass on the information, not malice, the judge ruled. Her defence of qualified privilege applied.

In his submissions before the Appeals Court, Senior Counsel Andre Yeap argued Hytech was hurt by the accusations and urged the judges to imagine themselves in the company's shoes.

The judges dismissed those arguments, saying the e-mail had to be seen in context and was the result of Ms Goh's frustration.

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