MJOs and Lowsley & another v Forbes

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Here is some interesting info as regards MJOs/Lowsley & another v Forbes:



No.11 of 1998 - 2 November 1998 DISCLAIMER: *All materials are presented merely for the purposes of general knowledge and public education. *Nothing contained in these materials are to be taken as legal advice or to create a solicitor-client relationship. *You are strongly advised to consult a lawyer to obtain comprehensive advice.

================================================================ LIFTING THE CAP ON OLD JUDGMENTS

When a party has obtained judgment against another, he may enforce the judgment by various means such as by issuing a Writ of Seizure and Sale or a Garnishee Order or other means. However, the law normally imposes a time period within which such execution of the judgment has to be carried out. Generally, leave of the Court is required if a judgment creditor wishes to execute upon a judgment that is more than 6 years old and such leave is given only when there are good reasons as to why execution was not effected earlier. The other alternative is for the judgment creditor who does not have sufficient grounds to obtain such leave of court to commence fresh legal proceedings i.e. to sue upon the judgment itself.

Section 6(3) of our Limitation Act Cap. 163 1996 Ed. however provides: "An action upon any judgment not be brought after the expiration of 12 years from the date on which the judgment became enforceable, and no arrears of interest in respect of any judgment debt shall be recovered after the expirations of six years from the date on which the interest became due."

It is obvious from the section that a judgment creditor may not sue upon a judgment more than 12 years old. For years however, many legal practitioners took the view that because of this section, a judgment creditor is also disallowed from executing upon a judgment more than 12 years from the date of the judgment even if he had reasonable grounds for not doing so and even if leave of court may have been obtained.

In a fresh development on this aspect of the law however, the House of Lords has just decided in July this year in the case of Lowsley and Another v. Forbes (Trading as L.E. Design Services) that the word "action" means a fresh action, and does not include proceedings by way of execution. Hence section 24(1) of the UK 1980 Limitation Act (which bears almost identical wording to section 6(3) of our Singapore Limitation Act) only bars the bringing of a fresh action on a judgment and not the execution of a judgment after the prescribed statutory period (which is six years in the case of the UK). It was also decided that when a judgment is executed after six years, interest on the judgment is limited to a period of six years before the date of execution.

Although the House of Lords decision is not binding on our Singapore courts, it is of persuasive authority and it is probable that a judgment creditor may execute upon a judgment even if it is more than 12 years old if he has reasonable grounds for not doing so earlier and after obtaining leave of court to do so. However, his recovery of interest will be limited to 6 years prior to the date of execution.

-- M Amos (idgroms@hotmail.com), October 06, 2002

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