SHOULD the decision on which country's court should hear the two cases hinge on the inconvenience factor?
The cases straddle both sides of the Causeway and witnesses for the plaintiffs were all from Singapore while those for the defendants were from Malaysia.
Justice Choo Han Teck said that where the level of inconvenience is likely to be the same for both sides, he would rather inconvenience the defendants unless the plaintiff's claim was unlikely to succeed.
The judge noted that in Mr Teo Cher Teck's case, he may call expert witnesses such as doctors who treated him here.
Mr Teo's lawyer Anuradha Tiwary argued that the main aspect of the case would be the nature and extent of his injuries, his loss of earnings as well as the cost of repairs to his car. As such, the witnesses would be two doctors who treated him, his repair mechanic and a surveyor ? all of whom are based here.
"If the plaintiff was required to be examined by the defendant's doctors, it should be by a doctor in Singapore," Justice Choo added. Likewise, in Mr Ismail Sukardi's claim, Justice Tay Yong Kwang said almost all the material witnesses were in Singapore.
While noting that the travelling time between the neighbouring states should not be a challenge for either side, the judge said: "It would be highly inconvenient for all of them to have to leave their normal routine to travel outside Singapore and to incur hotel and other expenses, even if only for a day or two (although these may be claimed at the conclusion of the action)."
Judge of Appeal V.K. Rajah had noted in a judgment two years ago that with the use of video conferencing now, this issue of inconvenience should not play that big a factor in deciding which court should hear the case.
But while noting the availability of technology, Justice Choo said the personal appearance of witnesses was still the "preferred form of witness testimony".
Justice Tay added that it would "make little sense" to have the trial held in Malaysia but have practically all the witnesses testify via video-link from Singapore.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 10, 2008.
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