Introduction to Occupier's Liability in Singapore

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Introduction to Occupier’s Liability in Singapore

Occupier’s liability refers to the liability of an occupier of premises arising from the defective conditions or unsafe activities on the premises which result in injury or damage to the plaintiff. In Industrial Commercial Bank v Tan Swa Eng His Honour Lai Kew Chai J rightly held that “the law of occupiers’ liability in Singapore is derived from English common law”. However, statues on occupier’s liability in the England are not applicable to Singapore under the Application of English Law Act and Singapore courts mainly concern themselves with the old, pre-statue English court decisions. Two main steps are followed to establish a duty of care. First, the factual occupier has to be identified by virtue of control. Second, the type of entrant has to be identified as the standard of care depends on whether one is an invitee, a licensee or a trespasser.

Spandeck Test

The case of Spandeck Engineering (S) Pte Ltd v. Defence Science & Technology Agency (Spandeck) led to the development of the Spandeck test which is a two-stage test of establishing legal proximity and considering public policies, following the fulfilment of the threshold of factual foreseeability. The Spandeck test is said to be universal and applicable to all types of harm resulting from negligence. Claims for physical injury, psychiatric injury and pure economic losses have been successfully addressed with the Spandeck test. Similarly, cases concerning occupier’s liability can be addressed by applying the Spandeck test too to determine whether the occupier has been negligent to the entrant.

Factual Foreseeability

The threshold factual test of factual foreseeability is readily met in claims of occupier’s liability as it is eminently foreseeable that entrants will suffer damage if occupiers did not take reasonable care to eliminate danger (See Toh Siew Kee v Ho Ah Lam Ferrocement (Pte) Ltd and others [2013] 3 SLR 284; [2013] SGCA 29

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