The High Court refused a consumer’s attempt to re-file a failed claim after the lower court issued a final and unappealable decision.
The consumer first brought a claim against e-commerce platform Lazada at the Small Claims Tribunal. After a decision was made, the consumer applied to the District Court for leave to appeal against the decision. The District Court refused to grant leave to appeal which, under law, is considered as final.
However, the consumer still brought a claim before the High Court, arguing that she was filing a fresh claim in respect of the damages that were not granted. The claim was refused.
- Parties cannot get around a final and unappealable decision by attempting to file the same claim disguised as a fresh claim.
- In the context of consumer claims against sellers, the nature of damages claimed should not be too remote.
In more detail
The plaintiff, Lakshmi d/o Kumaravelu, purchased a dishwasher on Lazada’s online platform. She brought a claim before the Small Claims Tribunal against Lazada to seek a refund for the amount she paid for the dishwasher and sought damages of SGD 1,124.51 for suffering eczema, which she claimed was a result of her dealing with Lazada’s customer service. The price of the dishwasher was disputed.
The Small Claims Tribunal found that the plaintiff had not proven that Lazada caused her eczema and that the nature of such damage was too remote to be claimable. Hence, the Small Claims Tribunal only ordered Lazada to refund the sum paid for the dishwasher at the price Lazada argued the dishwasher was.
The plaintiff applied to the District Court for leave to appeal against the Small Claims Tribunal’s decision with regard to the SGD 26.02 price difference of the dishwasher’s price (that was disputed) and for her damages for eczema. Under the Small Claims Tribunal Act, an appeal may only be brought if the District Court grants leave and the District Court’s decision on whether to grant leave is final. In this case, the District Court refused to grant leave.
Despite the District Court’s final and unappealable decision, the plaintiff proceeded to file a claim in the General Division of the High Court, arguing that the claim could be regarded as a fresh claim in respect of the reliefs that were not granted. The High Court ruled that this was an attempt to get around the lower courts’ unappealable decision; the plaintiff had no right to such appeal; and the dismissal of the plaintiff’s application to the District Court for leave to appeal was final.
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