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LohSiewKengvSengHuatConstructionPteLtd

[1998]SGHC197

SuitNo:

DecisionDate: 05Jun1998

Suit288/1996

Court:

HighCourt

Coram:

ChanSengOnnJC

Counsel:

Judgment

Judgment:

GROUNDSOFDECISION

1. Theplaintiff is theregisteredproprietorof thehouseknownas 72SiangKuangAvenueSingapore347983

(‘premises’oralternatively‘No72’).ThedefendantswerethecontractorsengagedbytheMinistryofEnvironment

(‘MOE’)tocarryoutcertainsewerageworksalongSiangKuangAvenue.Thoseworksincludedthereplacement

ofanundergroundsewerlineadjacenttothepremises.Theplaintiffbroughtaclaimagainstthedefendantsfor

negligenceandnuisancearisingfromthedefendants’excavationofthetrenchnexttothepremises.Iallowedthe

plaintiff’sclaimandgrantedinterlocutoryjudgmentwithdamagestobeassessed.Dissatisfiedwithmydecision,

thedefendantshaveappealed.Inowgivemyreasons.

Background

2.Theplaintiffandsomeofherfamilymembershavebeenstayinginthepremisesforthelast30years.Apart

fromsomeminorcracks,therewerenoseriouscracksinthepremises.

3. On5January 1996, thedefendants commencedexcavationof a2.7metredeeptrenchalongthepathway

betweenthepremises andaneighbouringhouseNo70SiangKuangAvenue(‘No70’). Ninedays lateron14

January1996,seriouscrackssuddenlyappearedinthewallsandfloorsofthepremises.Nootherconstructionor

excavationactivity,apartfromthedefendants’,wascarriedoutinthevicinityofthepremisesatthattime.

4.Crackspenetratedthewallsonthefirstandsecondfloorsofthepremises.Theexternalfloorofthepremises

hadalongcontinuouscrackline.Separationgapsbetweenthewallsandfloorscouldbeseenatcertainpartsof

thepremises.Therewerealsocracksinthefloortilesoftheinteriorofthepremises.

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Particularsinthere­amendedstatementofclaim

5.Theplaintiffallegedthatthedefendantsfailedtoexercisereasonablecareincarryingoutthesewerageworks

by­­

(a)causingorpermittingthefoundationsofthepremisestobedisturbedthroughmovementandvibrationduring

theexcavation;

(b)causingorpermittingthegroundadjacenttothepremisestosettlethroughthedrawdownofthewatertable

duringexcavation;

(c)failingtoemployavailablemethodsforlayingthesewerlineswhichwouldminimisethesoildisturbanceand

pumpingofthewater;

(d)failingtotakeadequateprecautionstopreventthegroundadjacenttothepremisesfrombeingdisturbedand

fromsettling;

(e)failingtocarryoutadequateshoringworkimmediatelyaftertheexcavationtopreventgroundmovementand

settlement.

6.Thedamagetothepremises was allegedtobecausedby thedefendants’negligentbreachoftheirduty to takereasonablecareandtheplaintiffhadsufferedconsiderabledistress,trouble,inconvenienceandexpense.

7. Inthefurtherandbetterparticulars, theplaintiff statedthat thelocations of subsidencewithinthepremises

werelocatedatareaswherethecrackshadoccurredbuttheirpreciselocationscouldnotbeidentified.Forthe particulars under(c),theplaintiffstatedthattheavailablemethods forpipelayingthatwouldminimisethesoil disturbanceandpumpingof thewaterwere: soiltreatment by jet grouting, steelsheet pilingandpipejacking. Under(d),theplaintiffsaidthatthemisalignmentoftheshoringoftheexcavationworksallowedsoiltoescape throughthegapsbetweentheshoring,therebycausingtheadjacentgroundsupportingthepremisestosubside.

Defence

8. The defence was that due diligence had been exercised and the method of trench construction was in

accordancewiththatofareasonablecontractor.

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9.Thedefendantsallegedintheiramendeddefencethatthedefects,ifany,werewhollycausedorcontributedby

theextensiverenovationsandadditionsmadetothepremisesbytheplaintiff.Moreparticularly,acantilevered balcony constructed on the second floor was not supported by any beam or column. That caused additional stress to the structure of the premises. As the ceramic tiles at the car porch were not laid on adequate foundation,cracksalsoresulted.

10.Tosubstantiatetheirdefence,theyreliedonthefactthatnocrackssurfacedathouseNo70whereextensive

renovationshadnotbeendone.

11.However,thedefendantsadmittedpumpingoutwaterfromtheexcavatedtrench.

Causeofactioninnegligence

12.Tosucceedinanactionfornegligence,theplaintiffhastoestablishthat(1)

thedefendantsowedheradutyofcare;(2)thedutyofcarewasbreached;and(3)thebreachhascausedthe

plaintiffdamage.

13.ThePlaintiff’scasewassimplythatthedefendantshadbytheirexcavationcausedthecracks.Thesecracks

resulted from: (1) the disturbance of foundation of the premises by the movement and vibration during the

excavation;(2)thesettlementofgroundduetothedrawdownofwater;and(3)thelossofsoilintothetrench

becauseofthepoorshoringconstruction.

14.Thedefendantsowedadutyofcaretotheplaintiffasitwasreasonablyforeseeablethattheirfailuretotake

reasonablecareintheexcavationcouldcausethegroundadjacent andsubjacent totheplaintiff’s property to subsideandthehousetobedamagedasaresultofthesubsidence.Thephysicalproximityofthedefendants’ excavationtotheplaintiff’s landwas soclosethat therewas aforeseeablerisk of harm arisingfrom ground subsidence, when loss of soil into the trench occurred and large quantities of waterwere pumped out of the trench.Howeveritwasextensivelyarguedastowhethertheplaintiffcouldevenmaintainanactionagainstthe defendantsifthelandhadsubsidedasaresultoftheabstractionofwaterfromthetrench.

15.Inthiscase,itismoreconvenienttoaddresstheissueofcausationandtheeffectsofgroundsubsidence,

beforedeterminingwhetherthedefendantsowedadutyofcaretoaneighbourtoavoidcausingsubsidencewhen

percolatingwaterwasabstracted.

16.Theissuesfordeterminationareasfollows:

(1)whetherthedefendantscausedthecracksthatappearedintheplaintiff’shouse;

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(2)ifthelandhadsubsidedastheresultoftheabstractionbythedefendantsofthewaterpercolatingunderthat

land,whethertheplaintiffcouldmaintainanactionforconsequentialdamageeitherinnegligence(orinnuisance);

and

(3)whetherthedefendantswerenegligent.

FirstIssue:whetherthedefendantscausedthecracks

EvidenceofPlaintiff’switnesses

17. PW1, MrJames ChuaHai Joo, testifiedthat hestayedinthepremises withhis 84yearoldmother, the

plaintiff,since1967.Between1967and1980,majorrenovationsweredone.

18. Sometimeinearly January 1996, thedefendants begandiggingadeeptrenchabout 6feet away fromthe

perimeterwallofthepremises.WhenPW1returnedhomefromworkon15January1996,hesawthatserious

crackshadappearedatseveralplaces.

19.Henoticedthatplanksforshoringthetrenchwerenotsupportedbyanytransversebeams.Itrainedheavily

oneevening.Blacksoilflowedoutcontinuouslyfromthegapsbetweentheplanksastheshoringwasnotwell done.Thedefendants keptdiggingoutthesoilandtransporteditaway by trucks.Aftertherainstopped,they pumpedoutthewaterandsoilfromthetrenchforafewhours.

20. PW2, theplaintiff, testifiedthat serious cracks suddenly appearedinthewalls andfloors of thepremises,

bothinsideandoutsideof thehouseafterthedefendants startedexcavation. Duringthe29years priortothe defendants’excavation,shehadnotseensuchseriousandextensivecracksbefore.

21.Nohorizontalstruttingswereputupwhilethediggingwasgoingonandsoilfellintothetrenchfromthesides.

The soil dug out was black in colour. Once, during a heavy downpour, the walls of the trench collapsed completelyandthetrenchwasfilledwithmud.Thedefendantssimplyremovedthemudandcontinuedwiththeir excavation.Thestruttingsandothersupportswereputuponlyaftertheexcavationhadbeencompleted.

22. According to PW2, the cracks appeared before the trench collapsed. When asked how extensive the

collapsewas,shesaidafewplankscollapsed.Whenthecontractorspulledthemout,earthfellintothetrench.

23.InPW2’saffidavit,shestatedthatshefirstdiscoveredthecrackswhenshereturnedfromworkonorabout

14January 1996.Shecouldnotopenthegateas itwas misaligned.Onesideofthegatewas lowerthanthe otherandtheboltwasjammed.Shewasverysurprisedasthegatecouldbeopenedinthemorningwhensheleft forwork.Thatnightandthenextmorning,cracksbegantoformallovertheinteriorofthepremises.Severalof

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theroomdoorscouldnotbeclosedasthedoorframesweremisaligned.Asthecrackswereveryserious,she

wasafraidforhersafety.

24.Anothersonoftheplaintiff,MrChuaKiangJoo(PW3),statedinhisaffidavitthatanexcavatorwasusedto

dig a trench deeper than the height of an average man. No horizontal struttings were in place when the excavationwas carriedout. A lot of wet black soil fell intothetrenchfrom thesides as thedefendants were digging.Afewdayslater,thewallsofthetrenchcompletelycollapsed.Thedefendantsthenquicklyputupthe boards andhorizontalstruttings at thetrench. They evenbrought insoiltofillupthegaps at thesides of the trenchtomakethemlookstraightandhidethefactthatthetrenchhadcollapsed.Thecracksinthepremises begantoappearafewdaysafterthecollapse.

25.Inhiscross­examination,PW3statedthatnohorizontalstrutsandwalerswereinplacetosupportthevertical

timberboardswhentheexcavatorwasdiggingthetrench.WhenPW3firstsawthetrench,ithadbeendugfrom

thefronttothebackofthehouse.Thedeeperpartsofthetrenchhadverticalplanksatbothsidesbutnotthe

shallowerparts.Blackwaterseepedthroughthegapsastheplankswerenotalignedproperly.

26.PW3wasreferredtophotograph3inexhibitD12.Hesaidthattheverticalplanksusedatthattimewerenot

thosethatcouldbeseeninthetrenchinphotographs2and3.Theverticalplanksusedwerebroaderandthinner,

similartothosewhichcouldbeseenlyingonthegroundatthetoprightcornerofphotograph3.

27.Heclarifiedhisevidence­in­chiefthattheblacksoilfellintothetrenchbeforetheverticaltimberplankswere

putup.Afterthey wereinplace,henoticedblack wateroozingthroughthegaps betweentheplanks.Healso

clarifiedthathedidnotseetheactualcollapsebuthesawthetrenchafterithadcollapsed.Atleast80%ofthe

verticalplankswerenolongervertical.Heelaboratedonhisaffidavitevidencethathesawthedefendantsputup thewalersandhorizontalstruttingsatthetopandbottompartofthetrenchtosupporttheverticaltimberboards afterthecollapse.Theystuffeddryyellowsoilintothegapsinthegroundonbothsidesoftheplanksoneither

sideofthetrench.PW3saidhewatchedthemdothisforanhourormoreintheeveningatabout4to5pm.

28.Onthenextmorning,theywerestillstuffingintheyellowsoilandputtinginthecrossbeamsandhorizontal

beams.Theydidthatfor3morningsand2afternoons.Onthethirdmorning,theycompletedthehorizontaland

crossbeams.ItwasabigjobaccordingtoPW3.Whenitwasputtohimthattherewasnosuchcollapseofthe

trench,PW3saiditwastrueashesawitwithhisowneyes.

EvidenceofPlaintiff’sexpert

29. PW4, Mr Wee Soon Eng, was the expert witness called by the plaintiff. PW4, a partner in the firm of

ConsultantEngineers,M/sOveArup@PartnersSingapore,isacivil/structuralengineerwithmorethan19years

ofexperience.Inhisaffidavitevidence,hestatedthatheinspectedthepremiseson12December1996.Hewas

supplied with documentary records relating to the soil conditions, structural drawings of the premises, calculationsanddetailsofshoring,renovationdrawingsandthephotographstakenofthepremises.

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30.Fromtheboreholereportsnearestthesubjectproperty,PW4saidthattheareawasgenerallyunderlainbya

layerofsoftmarineclaysome4mto6mbelowground.Abovethatwasloosesiltysandorsoftpeaty/marine

clay.

31.PW4explainedthatsettlementproblemswouldarisewhentherewaslossofgroundwaterwithinthesand.

Withsoft marineorpeaty clay, it wouldbesusceptibletoslipcirclefailure. Careshouldthereforebetakento provideatemporarywallwithstruttingsupporttopreventaslipcirclefailure.Ifsuchfailureweretooccur,thesoil wouldslumptowardstheexcavationandgroundsettlementwouldresult.

32.HeestimatedthecohesionCvalueandtheangleofshearingresistanceuforthesoiltobeasfollows:

Siltysandorloosesand=Cfrom0to10kN/m 2

ufrom20to30

Peatyclay=Cfrom5to15kN/m 2

u from0to50

33.Angleofshearingresistanceisthesteepestangleatwhichaheapofthatmaterialwouldstandunsupported.

It is about 30forloosesandandforwater, it is zero. TheCvalueis ameasureof thecohesiveness of the material or the ability of the material to unite or remain united with another: Glossary of Building and Civil EngineeringTerms.ThelargertheCvalueofthematerial,thehigherisitsshearstrengthresistance.

34.Fromthe"as­built"drawingsofthecompletedsewer,thesewerpipewasabout2.2mbelowtheground.The

trenchexcavationwasabout2.7mdeeptoaccommodatetheconcretehaunchingbelowthepipe.

35.Inviewofthesoftsoilcondition,PW4wasoftheviewthatcaremustbetakentoensurethestabilityofthe

trench.Thecontractor’sprofessionalengineer(‘PE’)madearecommendationfortemporarywallingandstrutting

usingtimberbasedonassumedsoilparameters ofC=15kN/m 2 andu= 5. PW4felt that theCvalueof 15

kN/m 2 used in the PE’s calculations forthe timbersupport system was too high. In his opinion, the Cvalue

chosenshouldhavebeenintheregionof10kN/m 2 .Furthermore,dewateringcontrolasaprecautionarymeasure

wasnotspecifiedalthoughthegroundwatertablewasassumedbythePEtobe0.5mbelowground.

36. ThePE’s designcalledfortimberplanks tobedrivenvertically intothegroundwithpenetrationbelowthe trenchlevel.Theverticalplanksweretobesupportedbyhorizontalwalerssecuredbytimberstrutsacrossthe

trench.Thefirstlevelofstrutswasat600mmbelowthegroundlevel.Thedesignstipulatedthatthesubsequent

layersofstrutsunderneaththefirstlevelofstrutsweretobeat1.2mapart.AccordingtoPW4,atleast3levels

ofstrutsandwalerswererequiredtosupportthis2.7mdeeptrench.

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37. PW4 noted however that only one layer of struts was installed at about 0.6m below the ground: see

photographs2and3.Withoutthesecondandthirdlayersofstruts,bulginginandescapeofsoilatthebottomof

thetrenchcouldoccur.Inthiscase,someverticalplankshadgivenwayascouldbeseeninphotographs55and

56.Thepressureofthesoilcouldhavepushedawaythetimberboards.

38.Thegapsbetweentheplankswouldallowsoilandgroundwatertoescapeintothetrench.Theblackmaterial

betweentheplanksseeninphotographs55and56couldbethepeatysoilseepingthrough.Plaintiff’scounsel

askedPW4whetheritwasacceptabletohaveblackwaterseepingoutfromthegapsintheshoring.PW4said

thatthegroundwaterwasescapingintothetrench.Withaloweringofthegroundwatertable,settlementwould

beexpectedintheadjacentground.Thatwouldnotbeacceptable.Further,thepeatyclaywouldtendtooozeout

andifitwasloosesand,itwouldalsofollowtheseepageofthewaterintothetrench.

39. PW4 described in detail in his affidavit the cracks and the settlement of the various parts of the house

structureandtheapronslabs.ExhibitWSE­6showedtheareaswherethecrackswereobserved.Althoughitwas

astandardproceduretoconducta‘pre­conditionsurvey’ofthehouseslikelytobeaffectedbytheexcavation, the contractor failed to do so. Thus, PW4 was unable to ascertain whether the cracks were new or existing crackswhenheinspectedthepremisesaboutayearlater.

Precautionarymeasuresinpoorsoilconditions

40.Inhisexpertopinion,thegroundconditionatthetrenchingworknexttothepremiseswasloosesandorpeaty

clayoramixtureofboth.Withheavyloadsplacedonthesoilorwaterdrawnofffromtheloosesand,theground wouldbecomesusceptibletosettlement.Landslides couldeasily occurwhenslopingorvertically cutsurfaces wereleftunsupported.Basedonhisanalysis,ifthesoilpropertieswereatthelowerendoftheestimation,such

asC=10kN/m 2 andu=0,orC=0kN/m 2 andu=20,thefactorofsafetyagainstslopefailureinaverticalcutof

2.7mwaslessthan0.6.Thisimpliedthatalandslidewaslikelyifthecutwasnotsupported.

41.Ineitherloosesandorpeatyclay,thevoidsamongthesoilparticleswerequitelarge.Drawingoutwaterfrom

thevoidsofsaturatedsoilcouldresultinlargereductionsinthesoilvolumeandareductionof10%to20%was

notunusualaccordingtoPW4.Anysettlementwouldmostlikelyaffectthegroundneartheexcavationwherethe

waterhadbeendrawnout.

42.PW4suggestedthefollowingprecautionarymeasureswhichcouldhavebeentakeninthelightofthepoor

soilconditionintheareabutwerenot:

Pipe­jackingmethod­Thisinvolvespropulsionofthesewerlinethroughthegroundsothatthereisnoneedto

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excavateanopentrench.Onlyasmallpitisexcavatedforthepipe­jackingmachine.Excavationisreduced.

Problemsofdewateringaswellasslip­circlefailurearealsominimised.

Pressurecementgrouting­Thismethodenhancesthestabilityofthetrench.Dependingonthespacingofthe

groutingpoints,thecementgroutcurtainformedminimisestheseepageofgroundwaterfromadjacentground

intothetrench.

Recharging­Waterdischargedfromthegroundintothetrenchispumpedupanddischargedintoperforated

pipessunkintotheadjacentgroundtoreplenishthewaterescapingintothetrench.Ifthisisdone,thewatertable

inthevicinityofthepremisesismaintainedandgroundsettlementisavoided.

Stabilityofthehouse

43. Plans and records from the Building Control Division showed that the two­storey house was built on the

premises sometime in 1950. It has a lightweight roof. The structural system of the house is generally of reinforced concrete beams and slabs, supported on columns resting on reinforced concrete footings. The columns carry the loads onto the pad footings, which are tied by ground beams. The ground slabs are non­ suspendedi.e.theyrestontheground.

44.InPW4’sopinion,anysettlementduetothebuildingloadwouldhavetakenplaceshortlyafterthehousewas

completed.Inanyevent,suchsettlementwouldbeevenlydistributedandstructuralcrackswouldnotoccur.

45. In1968, someAdditions andAlterations ("A@A")works werecarriedout. Thefront balcony supportedby

concrete slab and cantilever beams, was extended to cover the car porch. The newroof extension over the balconyabovethecarporchwasbuiltusinglightweight,sheetmetal.Theconcreteflatroofofthestudyroom was convertedintoabalcony. Theseapproved"Additions andAlterations" works weregenerally lightweight in constructionanddidnotaddmuchloadtotheexistingstructure.Inhisview,anysettlementwouldhavetaken placesoonaftertheloadswereadded.

46. In 1983, further A@A works were carried out. Part of the backyard was converted into a kitchen with a

lightweightsheetmetalroof.PW4statedthatitwasprobablethatnomajorchangeinloadingwasinvolved.

47.Thetiledconcreteapronslabatthedrivewayresteddirectlyonthegroundandthereforeaddednoadditional

loadtothepadfootings.

48.PW4consideredthefollowingpossibilitiesforsettlementoftheground:

(a)TheadditionalloadingfromtheA@Aworks;

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(b)Theslipcirclefailureoftheverticalcutatthetrench;

(c)Thevolumetricchangeinthesoilunderneaththepremisesduetothewatertabledrawdown;and

(d)Acombinationofsomeoralloftheabove.

49.Both(b)and(c)couldhappenifthedefendants’trenchexcavationwasnotproperlycarriedout.

50.Asfor(a),themajorA@Aworkswerecompletedsome27yearsago.AnysettlementcausedbytheA@A

workswouldhavetakenplacelongagoanditwasunlikelythatanycrackswouldbecausedbytheseworksin

1996.PW4concludedthatthecracksappearingin1996wouldlikelybecausedby(b)or(c)oracombinationof

both.

51.Accordingtohiscalculations,anysettlementcausedbytheA@Aworkswasestimatedtobelessthan10

mmwhereasa10%changeinvolumeinthetop2mofsoilwouldcauseasettlementof200mm.Hence(c)was

farmorelikelytoinducecrackingthan(a).

52.Thefactthattheapronslabsideofthecracknearerthetrenchwaslowerthanthepartoftheslabawayfrom

thetrenchandnearerthehousesupportedhisviewthatthecrackswerelikelytobecausedby(b)and(c).The cracksontheapronslabwerenotlikelytobecausedbytheadditionalloadingsincetherewasnoheavyload placed on it. If the vehicular load on the driveway was considered to be a heavy load, then the differential settlementwouldcausethedrivewaytobelowerthantheapronclosertothetrench,butonthefacts,thereverse

wastrue.PW4thereforeconcludedthatthesettlementandcracksontheapronslabweremostlikelycausedby

eithersoilslopefailureatthetrenchorvolumetricreductioninthegroundduetodewatering.

53.PW4summarisedhisconclusionsinhisaffidavitevidenceasfollows:

(a)Thepropertyisrestingonweaksoilsusceptibletodisturbance.

(b)TheA@Aworksareunlikelytocausethesuddenappearanceofcracksin1996.Anyadditionalloadsonthe

groundcausedbytheA@Aworkswouldhavebeenslightandanycrackscausedwouldhavebeenminorand

wouldhaveappearedimmediatelyorshortlyaftertheA@Aworkswerecarriedout.

(c)ThecracksontheapronslabcouldnothavebeencausedbytheA@Aworks.

(d)Thetrenchingworksmightcausegroundfailureiftheshoringworkswerenotcarriedoutproperly,and/orthe watertablewas drawndownwithconsequentialgroundsettlement. Suchgroundfailurecouldcausethecracks whichhavebeenobservedinthehouseandontheapronslab.

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(e)The cracks which have been observed in the walls and beams of the house showthat the structure had ‘slumped’ towards the excavation and this is consistent with ground failure being caused by the trench excavation.

(f) The sewer works need not necessarily cause the same damage to both houses no. 70 and 72 since the loadingsandsurfacefinisharedifferent.

Vibration

54.PW4ruledoutvibrationtobeofanysignificance.Theonlysourceofvibrationwouldbefromtheengineof

the excavator as well as the hammering of the timber boards into the trench. These vibrations would have dissipated when they reached the house, which was at a further distance from the trench. I agreed with his conclusionthatthevibrationdidnotcausethecracks.

Timbershoringdesign

55.Page43ofPW4’saffidavitshowedthevariousboreholesintheareaaroundSiangKuangAvenuewheresoil

sampleshadbeenextractedforlaboratorytests.BasedonthetestresultsforboreholelocationsBH9,BH2and

BH3,theaverageCvaluewascomputedtobe8kN/m 2 .Forthiscomputation,PW4usedC=8kN/m 2 at6m

depthforBH9,C=13kN/m 2 at5.5mdepthforBH2,C=5kN/m 2 at3mdepthandC=6kN/m 2 at7mdepth

forBH3.

56. Thus there would be concern for the stability of the trenching works constructed in accordance with the

shoringdesignprovidedbythePEbecausethelowerCvalueof8kN/m 2 impliedthattheforcesontheshoring system wouldbehigherthanwhat hadbeenprovidedforintheshoringdesign, whichwas basedonamuch

higherCvalueof15kN/m 2 .

57.DuetothepoorsoilconditionandthePE’sadoptionofahigherCvalue,PW4saiditwasadvisabletoputin

athirdlayerofstrutsandwalersatthebottomofthetrenchasthatwasnotfaroff(i.e.about1.2feet)fromthe

nextrequiredsupportlevelinthedesign.

Cross­examinationofPW4

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58.DuringPW4’scross­examination,muchtimewasspentonwhetherPW4wascorrectininsistingthatalower

Cvalueshouldhavebeenusedinthetimbershoringdesigncalculations.

59.First,PW4waschallengedonwhetheritwasappropriatetorelyonboreholeresultsnotobtainedfromin­situ

vanesheartestsbutlaboratorytests,whichapparentlygavelowerCvaluesthanthetrueCvalues.PW4was

shownthepaperby S Buttling, JNShirlawandJ James titled‘Theshearstrengthof Singaporemarineclays’ which was presented at the Fifth International Geotechnical Seminar on Case Histories in Soft Clay held in

December1987(seeD3atpage251).Thatseminarpaperpointedoutthat:

Unconsolidated, undrained tests on ‘undisturbed samples’ can give undrained shear strength values that are similartothosederivedfromin­situvaneandconetests.Thismethodofmeasuringshearstrengthis,however, highlysensitivetosampledisturbance.Evidencecollectedsuggeststhatsampledisturbance,possiblytogether with poor testing practice, has been fairly common in Singapore. This has sometimes resulted in the shear strengthofthemarineclaybeingseriouslyunderestimated.

60. Counsel for the defendant put the question to PW4 that laboratory tests were unreliable because of the

disturbancetothesoilsamplesduringcollectionandtransportationandthatin­situtestsgavehigherCvalues

thanlaboratorytests.

61.PW4saidhewouldnotdisputewhatwasstatedinthatseminarpaper.Hesaidthatwheremarineclaywas

encountered,theywouldalsocarryoutin­situvaneshearteststogetherwiththelaboratorytests.Bothsetsof resultswouldthenbecorrelated.Fromhisexperiencehowever,theCvaluewaslowformarineclayatshallow depths. They ranged between 0 to 15 and at the most, the C value is 20. Marine clay at deeper depths of between20mto28mwouldhaveCvalues rangingfrom30to50. Whenasampleof deepmarineclay was

disturbed,theCvaluerangecouldthereforedropfrom30to50toamuchlowerrangeofvalues.Whereasfor

shallowmarineclayaswasthecasehere,whichgenerallydidnothaveaCvalueexceeding15,thatlowCcould

notdropmuchfurther.

62.PW4agreedthatiftherehadbeenin­situtestsconductedfortheshallowmarineclay,onecouldgetahigher

Cvalue,butnotexceeding15generally,andthatthelaboratorytestsmightgivealowerCvalue.PW4saidthat

hehadassumedaCvalueof10inhisanalysis(seeparagraph6.1ofhisaffidavit)althoughtheaverageCvalue

calculatedwasonly8fromthelaboratorytestresultsofthe3relevantboreholelocations.

63. Counsel askedPW4tocomputethesoil bearingcapacity forasquarepadfootingof size2.2m by 2.2m

basedonaCvalueof10.AssumingC=10andu=0,PW4agreedthatthebearingpressureallowableonthe

footpadswas25.1kN/m 2 usingtheformulagivenatpage56inthebookbyAlfredsR.Jumikison‘Foundation Engineering’(seeD4andD5).IfC= 10,thebearingpressureallowableformarineclay was approximately 30

kN/m 2 .

64.CounselthenreferredPW4tothestructuralcalculationsforthedesignofthehouse(seePBD127)foroneof

thefoundationbasefootingsatB7.Thefoundationbaseof9feetsquarewassupportingadesignloadof181,500

lbs.Basedonthis,theloadingpressurewasequivalentto191kN/m 2 .Thisfarexceededtheallowablebearing

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pressureof30kN/m 2 basedonC=10withu=0.

65. PW4 tried to explain that there was a safety factorof 3 in the formula forderiving the allowable bearing

pressure.Theultimatebearingpressurebeforefailurewastherefore3x30=90giving90kN/m 2 formarineclay.

WhereasforloosesandwithC=0andu=20,theultimatebearingpressurewas194kN/m 2 .

66.Tomakesense,PW4wasconstrainedtosaythatthesoilwasmoreinclinedtobeloosesandbecauseitwas

obviousthatpeatyclaywithC=10withu=0couldnotpossiblysupporttheloadof181,500lbs.Eventhebest

marineclayatsuchdepthshavingaCvalueof15wouldnotbeabletosupporttheseloadsforthepadfootings.

Ifitwaspurelypeatyclay,thehousewouldhavecollapsed.PW4hadtoacceptthatthesoilbetween0mand

2.7mdepthwasnotmarineclay(pages66/67oftheNotesofEvidence).Heconcededthatthesoilwasstronger

thanwhathehadassumed.

67.PW4thenofferedtheexplanationthatfromboreholes2,3and9(seepages27,28and37ofhisaffidavit),

onecouldexpecta4mlayerofloosesandabovethelayerofmarineclay.AccordingtoPW4,thebuildingwas

stillstandingbecauseitwassittingonloosesandwithaurangingfrom20to30.Theultimatebearingpressure

supportablebyloosesandwithC=0andu=30was615kN/m 2 ,whichexceededthestructuralloadingpressure

of191kN/m 2 .

68.PW4alsoraisedthepossibilitythatthecontractorbuildingthehousesinthatareain1951wouldhavetaken

adequatestepssuchasbakaupilingordeeperexcavationstogetbettermaterialsforsittingthepadfootingson, ifhehadencounteredpeatyclayduringtheconstruction.Duetothethicknessofthemarineclay,itwouldhave

beenimpracticalandcostlytoexcavatetofirmerground.PW4thereforeagreedwithdefendant’scounselthatthe

tworemainingpossibilitieswereeitherthattheactualCvaluewashigherthanthatindicatedinthesoiltestsor

bakaupilingwasusedtohelpsupportthepadfootings.

Slipcirclefailure

69.Thenextareaofextensivecross­examinationwasonslipcirclefailure.PW4drewadiagramP2toshowthat

unsupportedsoiladjacenttoaverticaltrenchduginthegroundmightslip,dependingonthetypeofsoilandthe depthofthetrench.Ifthesoilslipped,thentheslipzonewaslikelytobecurvedandthecurvedlinewouldendat the bottom of the trench. That curved line was a segment of the slip circle. The failure of the soil would be describedasaslipcirclefailure.Ifthetrenchwasunsupported,thesoilabovetheslipcirclewouldbeexerting pressureonthesideofthetrench.Inaslipcirclefailure,thatsoilabovetheslipcirclewouldfallintothetrench whereasthesoilbeneaththeslipcirclewouldgenerallynotbedisturbed.

70.UsingtheBishop’sslipcircleanalysisandacomputertoperformtheiterativecalculation,hefoundthatfor

clayeymaterialwithC=10andu=0,thefactorofsafetywasonly0.6,whichindicatedthattheunsupported

trenchof2.7mdeepwouldsufferfromslipcirclefailure.SeeexhibitD6.Ifonlypartofthetrenchfailed,thenthe

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slipcirclefailurewouldtaketheshapeofhalfacup.SeeexhibitD7.Ifthesoilintheunsupportedtrenchwasthat

ofloosesand,therewasnosafetyfactoragainstslipcirclefailureandtheloosesandwouldfallintothetrench.

71.PW4wasaskedbycounselforthedefendantstoperformtheslipcirclecalculationsforsoilswithcohesion

valuesofC=10andC=15.Theresultsmaybesummarisedasfollows:

CohesionValueC

(kN/m 2 )

10

10

10

15

Surchargeq

(kN/m 2 ))

10

0

10

0

FactorofSafety

AgainstSlipCircle

Failure

0.6

0.8

1.0

1.2

72. The surcharge load q is the allowance for surface loading for equipment e.g. excavator, lorry. In the

calculationsatexhibitP8,‘F.O.S.’meansthefactorofsafety.Thedensityofthesoilgis16kN/m 3 .Cuisthe

cohesiveCvalue.Wherethefactorofsafetyis1,itisonthevergeoffailing.Factorofsafetylessthan1depicts

aslipcirclefailuresituation.XandYarethegraphicalco­ordinatesforthecentreofrotationoftheclipcircle.

73.WithC=15kN/m 2 andasurchargeof10kN/m 2 ,thefactorofsafetyis1andthesoilisjuststable.Butfor

designpurposes,afactorofsafetyof1isneverused.

74. Basedonthedistance1.4m betweenthetrenchwall (nearerthepremises)andtheboundary wall of the

premises,theboundarywallmightbeaffectediftherewasaslipcirclefailureasshownatpages16and26of

thecalculationsatP8.However,PW4statedthatitwoulddependonhowtheboundarywallsettled.Ifthewhole

boundarywallsettledbythesameamount,thenonemightnotseeanyvisibledamage.

75.Counselasked:

Q:Ifduringtheconstructionofthetrench,thewalersandthestrutswerenotputin,andtherewasacollapseof

thetrench,wouldtheboundarywallbeveryseriouslyaffected?

A:Itmaynotbebecauseifthewholeboundarywallinthatpart,nearthelocationwhereithasslipped,suffers

thesameamount,onewilljustseeaverticalcrackbetweenthepartwithintheslipcircleandthepartoutsidethe

slipcircle.

Q : Refer to paragraph 6 of affidavit of Chua Kiang Joo. On the assumption that it is true that the trench

completelycollapsedandallplankshadfallenintothetrench,howwouldtheboundarywallbeaffected?

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A:ItwillbenoworsethanwhatIhavesaid,assumingthatthetrenchisunsupportedi.e.ifthewallssettleby

thesameamount,onewillnotseevisiblesignsofdistress.Ifthewallsinksasawhole,thewallmaybetilted

andtheremaybeaverticalcrackbetweenthepartofthewallwithintheslipcircleandthepartoutside.Itwillnot

beatotalcollapseofthewall.Whenthathappensthewholefoundationofthewallisgivingway,itmustbeabig

collapsetodoso.

76.PW4neverthelessagreedthatifthetrenchhadcollapsed,thewallandthedrainlinewouldnotbewhatwas

showninthephotographsnos.10,12,16,17,26and27atMrLowGekSeng’ssecondaffidavit.Thewallwould

bemoreseriouslyaffected.

77.TheplaintiffcalledPW5,aregisteredsurveyorMrLeeLiChuantosurveythepremises.Hecarriedoutasite

surveyofthepremiseson13March1998andhedrewthesurveyplanP7.Anautomaticlevelinstrumentwas

usedtomeasurethelevelsandtheinstrumenthadanaccuracyof+2.5mm.

78.Heexplainedthat‘TBMB’onhissurveyplanrepresentedthe‘TemporaryBenchMark’.‘PW’referredtothe

parapetwallatthefrontgate.Heused2benchmarksatHousesNo39and41forthesurvey.Scale:1:50(H/V)

referredtothehorizontalandverticalscales.

79.Fromhissurvey,heconfirmedthatthegroundbetweentheoutsidewallofRoom1Aandtheboundarywall

adjacenttothetrenchhadagradientof1:38fallingtowardstheboundarywall.Thegradientofthegroundfrom

theinsiderightwallofRoom1Atothediningroomwas1:170fallingtowardsthediningroom.

80.Asnopre­trenchconstructionsurveywasdone,hecouldnotmakeanycomparison.Thus,hecouldnotsay

whether or not the levels as measured were the original levels for the house and whether there was any settlement.

81.Thewitnessmarkedoutthelocationofthelongcrackatthecarporchareaonpage4ofhissurveyplan.

82.PW4commentedonthesurveyresultsofPW5thatagradientof1:38fortheapronareaslopingtowardsthe

trenchwasnotanormalconstructiongradient.Theapronattheboundarywallwas6.6cmlowerthanthatatroom

1A.Itindicatedthattheapronslabhadtiltedtowardstheboundarywall.

Evidenceofdefendant’switnesses

MrLouisHwangTengSun,DW1

83. Mr Louis Hwang Teng Sun, DW1, the expert called by the defendants, is a registered professional Civil

Engineerwith19yearsexperienceincivilandstructuralengineering.Hewastheprofessionalengineerengaged

bythedefendantsforthesewerageworkatSiangKuangAvenue.

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84.Inhisshortaffidavit,hesaidthathevisitedthepremiseson16January1996afterhewasinformedofthe

cracks.HewasshownaroundthehousebyMrJamesChua(PW1).DW1sawsomecracksinthetiles,wallsand

floor.

85.DW1inspectedthetrenchandtookmeasurements.Hefoundthatitwasconstructedinaccordancewiththe

design. Thesupportingsystem andthebottom of thetrenchdidnot showsigns of movement. From his site

inspection,DW1confirmedthattherewasnofailureofthestrutsandtherewasnolateralmovementofthedrains

adjacenttothetrench.

86.Onthefollowingday,hevisitedthepremises.Thereappearedtobenofurtherdamagetothehouse.DW1

couldseethat somewereoldcracks as thecrevices haddirt inthem. Admittedly, therewerealsosomenew cracksbecausethecrackswerenotdirtyandthecrackedsurfacesofthetileswerefresh.

87.Hewasoftheopinionthattheslightlyinclinedtimberplanksseeninphotographs55and56wereinserted

slightly out of place into the ground. It had not given way subsequently. In his view, it was impossible to constructarulerstraightlineoftimberplanks.

88.HesaidthattheopentrenchwasvisuallyaboutequidistantbetweenNos70and72SiangKuangAvenue.

DW1gainedaccess intohouseNo70andvisually inspectedthefirst storey of thetwo­storey building. There

wereaoldfewcracks,whichwereinsignificanttothosefoundinNo72.HenotedthatNo70,unlikeNo72,did

nothaveextensiverenovations.

89. Inhis opinion, No70wouldbesimilarly affectedif thecracks at No72was duetotheinadequacy of the

shoringandthelateralmovementofthetimberplanks.Butthatwasnotthecase.

90. Hethenreferredtothealternativemethods (i.e. soil treatment method, sheet pilingmethodandthepipe

jackingmethod)suggestedbytheplaintiff’sexpert,PW4,inhisaffidavit.DW1saidthattheywerenotsuitable

because:

thesidelanewidthwastoolimited;

theexistingsewerlinehadtoremaininuseforaslongaspossiblebeforeitwasreplacedbythenewsewerline;

and

avibratoryhammerwasneeded.

91.DW1laterretractedthefirstreasonas ittranspiredthatsmallermachines forsoiltreatmentorjetgrouting wereavailable.

TypeofSoil

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92.Duringhiscross­examination,DW1saidthathehadvisitedthesiteinNovember1995toascertainthetype

ofsoilthere.Threetrialpits(oneateachendandoneatthemiddleoftheproposedtrenchexcavation)weredug

toadepthof1.5mtocheckfortheexistenceofserviceslikewaterpipesandelectricalcables.DW1sawthatthe

materialinthetrialpitswasdarkpeatyclay.Hedidnotseeanysand.Therewasnowaterinthetrialpits.DW1

didnothaveanyequipmenttotestforthesoilproperties.Hesimplyusedhisfingernailtopressoneofthesoil samplesanditdidnotappeartobeverysofttohim.Itwasfirmerthanplasticine.Inhisopinion,theCvalueof

15usedinthedesignwasadequate,basedonhisexperiencegainedovertheyears.

93. Becauseof thedifficulty incollectingundisturbedsamples forsoilmaterialinthesoft range, hesaidthat recommendedvaluesfromin­situtestsinresearchpaperscarriedoutonsoftsoilwerenormallyused.Formajor projects,in­situtestswereusedtoobtaintheactualCvalues.Forsmallprojects,thethumbtestwasarough

andreadyguidebasedonexperience.C=15kN/m 2 wasthevaluethatmostwoulduse.Butinsoilwhichwasa mixtureofsandandclay,justtakingtheCvaluealonemaynotbeaccurate.Bothpropertiesofsandandclay shouldbeusedandthatwouldresultinahigherfactorofsafety.

94.DW1commentedthatforengineeringdesign,resultsofboreholesasclosetothesiteaspossiblewouldbe

selected.Butitmightnotberepresentativeofwhatwasonthesiteitself.Generally,themostconservativesoil typewouldbeadoptedfordesignpurposes.Thenasiteverificationwascarriedoutbyvisuallyinspectingthetrial pits ortheexcavation. DW1concededthat althoughboreholes 2and3showedsilty finesandat 3m depth,

borehole9showedthatthesoilwasthatofsoftdarkbrownorganicclay.DW1admittedthatitwouldbeadvisable

tousethepropertiesofthedarkbrownorganicclayasthatwouldbethemostconservativecomparedtosand.

Theactualphysicalsiteconditionwasclosertothatofborehole9.

95.Duetotheinaccuracyoftestresultsforsoftclay,thesoilpropertychosenforthetrenchshoringdesignwas

basedonbooksandresearchpaperswhichrecommendedC=15kN/m 2 forsoftclay.

96.DW1alsoassertedthatthesoilpropertiesoforganicpeatyclaywasatleastequaltoorbetterthanmarine

clay but hehadnothingtosupport that proposition. Later, DW1madeaqualificationthat peaty clay wouldbe weakerthanmarineclayiftherewasalotofmoistureinthepeatyclay.Ifthemoisturecontentwasthesame, thenbothmaterialshadalmostsimilarproperties.

97.However,DW1concurredwiththegeneralstatementmadebyPW4thatthebestmarineclayatthedepthin

questionwouldhaveaCvalueof 15kN/m 2 . But it appearedfromthecalculations that thepeaty clay at this

depthwas strongerthanmarineclay inordertosupport theloads of between95to105kN/m 2 (seeNotes of

Evidenceatpages48and50on17March1998)atthepadfootingstakenfromtheconstructiondrawingsofthe

houseattheplaintiff’sbundleofdocumentsPBD127.WithC=15kN/m 2 ,themostthesoilcouldcarrywas126

kN/m 2 which only gave a safety factor of 1.25. As DW1 believed that a higher safety factor was used, the

assumedCvalueforthedesignofthehousefoundationwouldbehigherthan15kN/m 2 .

98.DW1didnotthinkthatbakaupilingwasused.Nonotesofanybakaupilingcouldbeseenonthedrawings.

DW1alsodiscountedthepossibilityofrefillingwithbettersoilbecausetheboreholes3and9,evenaftertesting

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to 10 m below ground level, showed soft marine clay. Refilling would be very extensive and was therefore unlikely.

99.CounselfortheplaintiffthenaskedDW1howthehousewasbuiltiftherewasnobakaupilingandnorefill.

DW1saidthatthehousewasdesignedtothefootingpressurecriteriainuseinthosedays,whichstipulated95

to105kN/m 2 foraworstcasesituation.Therewasnoneedtobakaupile.

Trenchconstruction

100. DW1 had visited the site in early January 1996 to check whether the trench had been constructed in

accordancewiththedesignandtoseeiftherewereanyproblems.Noproblemswerereported.Thedefendants

hadconstructedthefirst1/3ofthetrenchattherearofthepremises.Hefoundthatlargerwalersandstrutsthan

thatspecifiedinthedesignwereused.Somesectionshadbeendugto2.7mandthestrutswereinplace.The

depthofthefirstlevelofstrutswasabout2’.Thesecondlevelofstrutswasatabout6’belowthegroundlevel.

Forthosesectionstheyweredigging,thetoplevelstrutsinplacewere8feetinsteadof4feetapartascalledfor

by thedesign. Thecontractoromittedthealternatestruts as hehadnot reachedthefulldepthof 2.7m. They were digging beneath the top level struts. For the full trench depth, the struts were required to be at 4 feet

intervals.However,fora2mdeeptrench,itwasadequateaccordingtoDW1toleavethestrutintervalsat8feet

becauseoftheshallowertrenchandthebiggerwalerandstrutsizesusedbythedefendants.

101. DW1sawthedefendants excavatingthesecondlevel inonesectionof thetrench. Eachsectionof the

trenchwas12’inlength.Theywerethenusingthesmallexcavationbuckettoexcavatetoadepthof6’.DW1

reasonedthattheexistingsewerlinewouldhavenecessitatedmanualdiggingforthelast2feetofthetrench.

Otherwise,theexistingsewerwouldbedamagedbytheexcavatorandtheresidentswouldnotbeabletouse

theirtoilets.

102. When DW1 received the complaints, he went to the site on 16 January 1996 and measured the trench

shoring.Hefoundthatthewalersandstrutswereofcross­section6"x6".Theplankswere12’longandofcross­

section8"x2".Plaintiff’scounselthenreferredDW1tophotographs2and3becausePW3hadallegedthatthe

shoring planks in the trench were not those originally used, and that prior to the collapse of the trench, the shoringplanks usedwerebroaderandthinner, similartothosewhichcouldbeseenat thetopright cornerof

photograph3.Onexaminationofthephotographs,DW1saidthatthoseplankslyingonthegroundadjacentto

the trench were planks used for the formwork. However, he also said he could not really tell from the

photographs.DW1thensaidthatthetimberplankslyingaroundwerebroaderthantheplanksusedverticallyin

thetrenchshoringconstructionbut thethickness was about thesame. Inhis opinion, pushingthesebroader timbersintothegroundwiththeexcavatorwouldbemoredifficult.

103.DW1wasreferredtophotographs55and56.Hesaidthattherewassomewaterwettingthetimberandalso

the soil excavated was black damp soil. As it was not possible to remove all the peaty clay during the excavation, someof that peaty clay hadadheredtothetimber. Hedidnot seeany clay oozingout from the planks.Hesawdampnessasinthephotographs.

104.Plaintiff’scounselcross­examinedDW1onthemisalignedverticaltimberboardsparticularlythosefoundon

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thesideof thetrenchnearertoNo72. DW1’s explanationwas that thetimberusedcouldhaveapermanent bowing.

105.DW1commentedthatitwasunnecessarytohave3levelsofstrutsaswassuggestedbyPW4.Thefirst

levelofstrutswasat2’.Thenextlevelofstrutswas6’belowthegroundlevel.Theplanksandthesoilcouldin

hisopinionsupportthelast2’oftheplankswithouttheneedforthethirdlevelofstruts.Hiscalculationsshowed

that2levelsofstrutsweresufficient.Withthefarendoftheverticalplankssunkabout1mfurtherintothe2.7m

deeptrench,theplankswerenotunsupportedatthedeepend.DW1notedthatphotographs2and3(takenon18

January1996)apparentlyshowedonly1levelofstrutsafterthenewpipewasinplace.Eventhen,therewasno

failureofthetrench.Butwhenhevisitedthesite2daysearlieron16January1996,hedidsee2levelsofstruts

forthewholetrench.

106. Duringhis inspectionof theinitial excavationinearly January whenthedefendants wereexcavatingthe

3 rd section,hesawthatbothlayersofstrutswereinplaceforthetwocompletedsections.Nothingwasmissing.

Fortheuncompleted3 rd section,thehorizontalstrutswere8’apartandtheexcavatorwasdiggingbetweenthe

strutsatdepthsbetween2’and6’.Thefactorofsafetywasnotreducedalthoughtheintermediatestrutswerenot

putinplacebecauseatthatjuncture,thefulldepthofthetrenchwasnotreachedyet.DW1observedtheworkfor

aboutanhourto11/2hoursduringthissecondvisit.

Dewatering

107. DW1 explained that in sandy soil conditions, it was easierforboth sand and waterto leak out into the

trench. Pressure against the side wall of the trench was thereby relieved. For clayey material, it was more

difficultforthewatertoleakoutbecausethatmaterialwaslesspermeable.Therefore,morepressurewouldbe

exertedonthesidewall.

108.Itwaspossibleforsettlementofthegroundinthehousetobecausedbydewateringastheinfluencezone

waslarger.Howeverforleakageofsoilintothetrench,itwouldstillfollowa45 o wedgeline,whichwasbasically

theslipcircle.Theaffectedareawouldextend3to4mfromtheedgeofthetrench.

109. DW1 agreed that water would collect in the trench if it was below the water table. The defendants had

pumped water out of the trench without taking any precautions against dewatering. However, DW1 said that

dewateringshouldalsoaffectNo70butitdidnot.

Collapseofthetrench

110.DW1visitedthepremisestogetherwiththeManagingDirectorofthedefendantcompanyandofficialsfrom

MOEwhenthecomplaintswerereceived.Hemettheplaintiffandhertwosons.Theydidnotmentionanything

aboutthecollapseofthetrench.

111.DW1founditdifficulttounderstandhowthetrenchcouldhavetotallycollapsedwhenitwasconstructedin

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sections of 12 feet length each. Even if there was a collapse, he would only expect a localised collapse. Anythingwithintheslipareawouldbedamagedparticularlywhentheboundaryfencewasabrickwallfilledwith pre­cast brick blocks. The boundary wall in this case was only 1.4 meters from the edge of the trench (see

exhibitD10)andwaswellwithintheslipcirclefailurezone.Yetphotographsoftheboundarywalltakenafterthe

complaintdidnotshowsubstantialcracks.

Soilstabilisationbycementgrouting

112. DW1saidthat cement groutingunderpressuremay not beeffectiveforclayey soil. Therewas alsothe

questionofcosteffectiveness.HehadconsultedtheprofessionalsingroutingfromPresscreteEngineeringPte

Ltd(‘Presscrete’)andhewascautionedagainstpossibledisplacementofthegroundduetotheshallowdepthof

thesoiltreatment,andthepresenceoftheacidicpeatyclay,whichwouldweakenthejetgroundcolumn.

Removaloflowerlevelofstruts

113. DW1was askedwhetherremovingthelowerlevelof struts tofacilitatethelayingof thenewpipewould

overloadthetimbershoring.BasedonthebendingstressvaluesfromhiscalculationsatexhibitD17,DW1said

there might be an overstress situation if C = 15 kN/m 2 . If C was greater than 15 kN/m 2 , then it might be

satisfactory.WhenDW1performedanothersetofcalculations(seeD20andtheattachments),heconcludedthat

thereshouldbeatotalcollapsebecausetheultimatebendingstressofthetimberboard,whichheassumedto havethepropertiesofKempaswoodofselectgradetakenfromtheCodeofPracticefortheStructuralUseof

Timber­CP7:1978,wasexceededbyabout18%.

114.Inre­examination,DW1explainedthattherewasabuilt­insafetyfactorforaccidentaloverloading,errorsin

designassumptionsetc.However,thissafetyfactorcouldnotbelessthan1.5otherwiseitwouldnotbeableto

sustaintheshort­termincreaseinloadingofupto50%underparagraph3.9.2(i)oftheabovementionedCodeof

Practice.AccordingtoDW1,this may explainwhy theverticalrunners hadnotcollapsedwhenthelowerlevel strutsandwalerswereremovedtofacilitatetheinstallationofthenewpipeontheconcretebedatthebottomof thetrench.

MrChanEweJin­DW2

115. Counsel for the defendants called Mr Chan Ewe Jin (DW2) to testify on their behalf. DW2 was the

professionalengineerfirstemployedbytheplaintifftodoaninitialstructuralinvestigationreport.Hecarriedouta

generalinspectionofthepremiseson18January1996.

116.Inhisreport,DW2stated:

2.5PossibleCauses

Theformsofcracksweregenerallyintheverticalanddiagonaldirection.Manycrackswerebasicallyfoundat

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thecorners ofwalls.Mostofthecracks wereobservedtobepenetratedthroughonefaceofwalltotheother face.

Thoughthefoundationoftheoriginalstructurewasnotknowninthisstudy,itwasbelievedthatthestructurewas

foundedonfootings.

Hence,inouropinion,thecracksdevelopedinthehouseweremainlyduetogrounddeformationanddifferential settlements betweenfootings. Webelievethat thefootings nearertotheexcavationmight beendisturbedand gonetofurthersettlement.

Thefollowingarethepossiblecausesandfactorsthatcouldaffectthegroundmovementandsettlement.

1)Atrenchexcavationwasnexttotheaffectedhouse.Duringexcavation,thegroundwatertablewouldchange

andlowerdown.Theloweringdownofwatertablecouldeasilycausetheadjacentgroundtosettle.Generally,the

grounddeformationatthesurroundingwasnotsignificant,butitwasbelievedthatlittlegrounddeformationwould

beadequatetocausecracksonwalls.

2)ThehousegeologicallysitedatareawheretheunderlyingsoilstratumisKallangFormationwhichcomprises

bothmarineandterrestrialsediment. Obviously, thesoilconditionat this regionis poor. As thestructurewas believed to be supported by footings, settlement could easily be affected and aggravated by the adjacent excavationandvibrationwork.

3)Themethodofconstructionandthesequenceofworkcouldalsoaffectthelateralmovementofthewallsat

trench,whichinturncouldcausethegroundsettlement.Thetimingofshoring,whetherthegroundwasshored

immediatelyafterthetrenchwasexcavated,wasanimportantfactorthatcouldcausegroundmovement.

4)Theinadequacy ofshoringcouldalsobeafactorthataffectedthegroundmovement.Itwas notedthatthe trench was approximate 1.5 meter wide by 3 meter deep. As noted, timber planks with one layer of strut at

approx.0.8mfromgroundwereusedtoshorethetrench.Atsomeareas,lateralmovementwithtimberplanks

givingwaywasnoted,seePhotograph55@56.

3.0ConclusionandRecommendation

Generally,thecracksappearedinthebuildingwerethroughcracksintheformsofverticalanddiagonal.Itwas

believedthatthefootingshavebeensubjectedtodifferentialsettlementsandgroundmovement.

As thecracks werereportedaftertheadjacent minorsewerwork started, thecauses of settlements couldbe attributedtooneorcombinationofthefollowing.

1)Trenchexcavationnexttothehouse.

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2)Drawdownofwatertableduringexcavation.

3)Groundmovementandvibrationduringexcavation.

4)Footingsonpoorsoilformation.

5)Delayinthetimingofshoring

6)Inadequacyofshoring.

117.Ontheinadequacyoftheshoring,DW2testifiedthatheactuallysawsomeplanksgivingway.(Seepage63

Notes of Evidence on 17 March 98.) He was of the opinion that the cracks which could be seen in the photographstakenbyhimweredevelopedthroughsettlementofthesurroundingground.

MrWongSengToong­DW3

118.MrWongSengToong,DW3,worksintheconstructionsectionoftheSewerageDepartmentoftheMOEas

aSeniorTechnicalOfficer.Hismaindutyistoadministerandoverseeprojects.HevisitedthesitealongSiang Kuang Avenue once or twice in a week. He said that 2 methods of sewer laying were carried out by the defendants.ThelongsewerlinealongSiangKuangAvenueitselfwasdonebythepipejackingmethodwhereas

the5shortlineswerebytheopentrenchmethod.

119.DW3statedthatgroundtreatmentwouldbeusedonlywhenthegroundconditionwasverybadlikemarine

clay.Althoughcementgroutinghadbeenstipulatedbythecontractorasaprovisionalitemofwork,hewasafraid thatthecementgroutwouldinfiltrateintothecracksintheexistingfaultysewersandchokethemup.Ifithad

beensoggymarineclayandwhereitwouldposeadanger,thenhewouldusegrouting.SincethesoilatNo72

wasblackclayeysoilandnotmarineclay,hedecidedagainstit.

120.Theblackheapatthetoprightofthephotograph3showedthetypeofblackclayeysoilexcavated.This

soilwasnotverywetfromhisobservation.Trialpits(1’wide,2’to3’inlengthand4’deep)dugalongthetrench

lineshowedthatthesoilwasnotmarineclaybutblackclayeysoil.Thefreestandingpitsdidnotcollapse.

121.Hedescribedhowthedefendantsconstructedthetrench.Thedefendantsdugasectionofabout8’lengthto

adepthofabout1’.Theythenputinthewalersatbothsidestoguidetheplacementoftheverticaltimbersor

runners, which were about 10’ to 12’ in length. These runners were pushed into the ground with about 6 ’ protrudingabovetheground.Onhisfirstvisit,heonlysawtheinitialpartoftheconstructionofthefirstsectionat

therearofNo72.Hisnextvisittothesitewasafterthecomplaints.Hedidnotconcentrateonthissitebuton

thepipejackingworksalongthemainroad.

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122.ThefulltimetechnicianonsitetosupervisetheconstructionworkswasMrMichaelNgeow.Iftherewasa

collapseofthetrench,thesitetechnicianwouldhavetoreporttohimandhewouldhavetoreporttohischief

engineer.TheMinistrywouldstoptheworkandcauseaninvestigationtobedonebytheSewerageDepartment.

Buttherewasnoreportofacollapse.

123.Inthiscase,aninternalinvestigationwasdoneaftercomplaintsofcrackswerereceived.BoththeDeputy

ChiefEngineerandtheSeniorEngineerhadgonedowntothesitetolookatthecracksaswellasthetrench.He went withthem. However, all of them couldnot cometoany conclusionbecausesomewereoldcracks and somecouldbenewcracks.Notallthecrackshadmouldordirtinthem.Thecracksontheboundarywallhad blackfungus.Somedidnot.Insidethehousewerecracksonthewalls.Thehairlinecracksappearedtobefresh cleancracks.

124.DW3spokewiththeplaintiffandPW1.PW1didnotmentionthatthetrenchhadcollapsed.

125. On the need fora pre­condition site survey, DW3 accepted that the department should have asked the

contractortotakephotographsoftheconditionofthehousepriortothesewerageconstruction.DW3saiditwas

thecontractorwhowas supposedtocarry that out. Hewas of theviewthat therewas reasonableopportunity betweenOctoberandDecember1995forthesurvey tobedone.Buttheownerwas notthereaccordingtoMr Ngeow.

MrMichaelNgeowSiongChow­DW4

126.DW4,MrNgeowSiongChowisaSeniorTechnicalOfficerwiththeSewerageDepartmentoftheMinistryof

Environment.HewasthefulltimesupervisoroftheSiangKuangAvenueproject.Hisdutywastoensurethatthe

contractorcarriedouttheworktothedepartment’srequirements.Hewasonthesitedailyfrom8.30amto5pm.

127.Hesaidthatageneralsurveywascarriedoutpriortotheexcavation.Somephotographsweretakenofthe

roadandtheexteriorofthehouseatNo72.Hewaspresentwhenthe3trialpitsweredug.Thesoilbeneaththe

5" thick concretepavement was brownish/black clay fortheentiredepthof thetrial pits. Hedidnot seeany layeringwithothertypesofsoil.Fromhisvisualinspection,thesoilwasquitefirm.Itwasnotwet.Hedidnotsee

anysandinthatsoil.Thetoprightofphotograph3showedthetypeofsoilexcavatedfromthetrench.

128.Accordingtothesitediary(D15)keptbyhim,workcommencedonthetrenchon5January1996.ADaewoo

excavatorwithabigbucket was usedtoexcavateto2’foronesectionof 12’length. Verticaltimbers of 12’

lengthwerethenplacedateachofthe4cornersanddrivenallthewayintotheground.6"by6"timberwalersof

12’ length were then placed on each side. Horizontal cross struts of 6" by 6" cross­section were inserted to

securethewalersagainstthesidesofthetrench.Arectanglewasthusformedwith2walersand2struts.With

thewalersasguides,verticaltimbersweredrivenfullyintothegroundonbothsidesusingtheexcavatorclaw. Therewasnodifficultypushingtheseverticaltimbersintotheground.Aftertheshoringwallswerecompleted,the

excavatordugouttheblack/darkbrownsoilbetweenthe2horizontalcross­struts.Diggingproceededinthisway

untiladepthof6’wasreached.Diggingstoppedandanothersetofwalerswereputin.Strutswereplacedatboth

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endsandinthecentreofthissetoflowerwalers.Anotherstrutwasalsoplacedbetweenthestrutsattheupper levelwalers. Theshoringsystemforthesectionwas thus complete. Thelabourers woulddescendintothe6’

deeptrenchsectiontocompletediggingtheremaining3’,whilsttheexcavatormovedontodigthenextsection.

129. One section of the trench was completed on the first day of excavation. On the second day, 2 more sectionswerecompletedusingthesamemethod.Workprogressedsmoothly.Thesametookplaceonthethird

day.Bytheendofthefourthdayon9January1996,theywerereadytopreparethebaseofthetrenchforbakau

piling.

130.Nothingunusualhappened.Therewassometricklingofclearwaterintothebottomofthetrench.Hecould

notseeanysoilseepingoroozingoutbetweenthegapsintheplanks.Inthemorning,watercouldbeseeninthe

trench.ButaccordingtoDW4,therewasnotmuchwaterandthebottomofthetrenchwasnotthatsoggy.

131.On10and11January1996,bakaupilesofover20’lengthswereverticallypressedinfortheentirelengthof

the trench at 300 mm intervals in 3 rows. There was not much difficulty pushing in the bakau piles into the

bottomofthetrench.Atotalof170bakaupileswereused.

132.Inthemorning,thetrenchwasfilledwithwatertoadepthofabout1’.Asmallpumpwasusedtopumpthe

trenchdry.Pumpingtookbetween20to30minutes.Beforethepumping,theundisturbedwaterwasclear.After

thepumpstarted,thewatertookonabrownishcolourbecausethesiltwaschurnedup.Theyhadtopumpout water every morning. Sometimes, when concreting work had to be done, they pumped out water also in the afternoon.

133.On12January1996,thetrenchbottomwascleanedupbyremovingcutwoodends,wedges,debrisand

wrappingsetc.Theheadsofthebakaupileswerecutonthefollowingday,13January1996.Formworkforthe

concretebaseforthepipetositonwascompleted.Theformworkwasbelowthelowerlevelofstruts.

134.OnMonday,15January1996,complaintswerereceivedandworkstoppedonthatday.DW4’ssuperior,Mr

WongSengToongcalledDW4inthemorningtoinformhimthattheoccupantsofNo72hadcomplainedandhe

askedDW4toinvestigate.DW4wasatthesiteatthattime.HevisitedthehousewithMrLowGekSeng,the

ManagingDirectorofthedefendantsandmettheplaintiff.DW4sawsomestainedcracksandsomefinelinenew

cracks.Hisimpressionwasthattheoldcracksweremorethanthefinenewcracksatthecarporcharea.The

plaintiffwasupsetthatthecontractordamagedherhouse.PW1wasalsopresent.

135.Onthemorningofthefollowingday,16January1996,workresumed.Theycontinuedtoclearrubbishfrom

thetrench.Intheafternoon,concretingworkforthebaseofthepipewascompleted.

136.TheactualpipelayingwascarriedoutonWednesday,17January1996.Eachsectionofthepipewasabout

6’inlength.Inthiscase,itwasdifficultandtimeconsumingtolaythepipewithoutfirstremovingthelowerlevel

ofhorizontalcross­struts.Thelowerlevelofstrutsandwalerswereremovedtofacilitatethelayingofthenew pipe. Therewas howevernomovement of theverticaltimbers whenthelowerlevelof walers andstruts were removed.

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137.Photographs55and56showedthatthenewpipehadbeenlaid.Thewalerandthestrutseeninthesetwo

photographsweretheupperwalerandstrut.Theconcretebedwasabout1’highincludingthepilecap.Atthis

stage, thevertical timberrunners weresupportedonly by thewalers andstruts at theupperend, andby the

toeinginoftherunnersatthebottomofthetrench.DW4didnotagreethatthetimbersseeninphotographs55

and56werecominglooseatthetoeend.Hesaidthattheblackmaterialmightbewaterstainsbuthecouldnot

tellfromthephotographs.

138.On18January1996,cementwaspouredoverthenewpipewhichwaslaidontheconcretebed.Onthenext

day,theformworkwasremovedandthedefendantscommencedbackfillingofthetrench.

139.Therewereinstancesofrainfallrecordedinthedairy.ItwasDW4’sdutytorecordtheweather.Whenthe

rainwasheavyandtheworkerswereunabletowork,hewouldrecorditashavingrained.Butifitwasmerelya drizzle and the workers could still continue their work, he would not record it. The extent of delays due to inclementweatherwouldthenbeknown.

140.Fromthediary,therewashowevernorecordofrainfortheentirework periodbetween5and19January

1996forthetrenchadjacenttoNo72.DW4testifiedthatitdidnotrainonthosedaysbetween8.30amto5.00

pm.However,ifitrainedinthenightafterheleftthesite,thenhewouldnotknow.

141.DW4wasaskediftheplanksseenlyingonthegroundinphotograph2wereusedfortheverticalrunners.

Hesaidthey were1" x 8" planks andthey couldnot beusedfortheverticalrunners. They wereusedforthe concreteformwork.

142.DW4alsosaidthattherewasnocompletecollapseofthetrench.ThestatementintheaffidavitofDW3that

therewerenohorizontalstrutsinplacewhentheexcavationwascarriedoutwasuntrue.Itwasalsonottruethat alotofwetblacksoilfellintothetrenchfromthesidesasthedefendantsweredigging.Exceptforthelastline,

DW4deniedthewholeofparagraph6ofDW3’saffidavitthatthewallsofthetrenchhadcollapsedcompletely,

thetimberboardshadallfallenintothemiddleofthetrench,thegroundatthesideshadgivenwayandcollapsed

intothetrench.Hedeniedthatthedefendantshadquicklyputupthetimberboardsandhorizontalstruttingsat

thetrenchandbroughtinsoiltofillinthegapsatthesideofthetrenchtomakethesideslookstraightandhide

thefactthatthetrenchhadcollapsed.Hedidnotseethecontractorstuffingyellowsoilintothegaps.

143.Howeverincross­examination,itwassuggestedtoDW4thatthepartoftheverticaltrenchnearthemeter

compartmentwherethemisalignedverticaltimberscouldbeseen(atphotographs2and3),hadmovedwhenit

rainedandthecontractorpushedthetimbersbackagain,andstuffedsomewoodenplanksandsoilintothegap

there.DW4pausedforawhilebeforesayingthathehadnocomment.

144.DW4statedduringcross­examinationthatthewaterpumpedoutofthetrenchwasdischargedintoaside

drainbehindasandtrap.Hedidnotseeanysandpumpedouttogetherwiththewater.Butthesandtrapwas chokedupwithdarkbrownishsilt,whichhadtobeclearedaftereveryfewdays.Thetemporarysandtrapwasa

contraptionof3or4gunnysacksofsandplacedinthedrain.Clearwaterflowedoverthetrapbutothermaterial

wouldbetrappedbehindthegunnysacks.Inre­examination,DW4clarifiedthatthewaterpumpedoutwasdark

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incolourbecausethepumpingdisturbedthewater.

MrHoCheeEu­DW5

145.MrHoCheeEu,DW5,istheGeneralManagerofPresscreteEngineeringPteLtd.inchargeoftheground

engineeringdivision. Heis aregisteredProfessional Civil Engineer, amemberof theInstituteof Engineers in

SingaporeandtheAmericanSocietyofCivilEngineering.Hehasbeenworkingasanengineersince1986.

146.HetestifiedthathehadrepliedtoqueriesfromMrHwangonthebasisoftheinformationprovidedtohim.He

hadnoopportunity tovisit thesite. Hesaidthat it was possibletouseasmallmachinetodogroutingwork. However, thedisplacements of thegroundwerevery difficult tocontrol whengroutingwork was doneinsoft clayeysoil.Disturbancetonearbystructureswaslikely.Therefore,damagetoexistingwalls,drainsandservices mightposeproblems.

147. Analkalineenvironment was requiredwhenmixingthegrout. Anacidic environment wouldneutralisethe effectsofthegaininstrengthinthegrout.Itwasknowninpracticethatpoorqualitygroutmightforminacidic soilsuchaspeatyclay.

148.AccordingtoDW5,jetgroutingwashighlyspecialisedwork.Asitwasnotacheapsolution,itwasnormally

usedinsituationswhereothermethodswerenotpossibleandprojectsweremuchbigger.Thenthemethodwould

bemorecosteffective.

MrLowGekSeng­DW6

149.MrLowGekSeng,DW6,istheManagingDirectorofthedefendantcompany.Hepersonallysupervisedthe

sewerageworkatSiangKuangAvenue.

150.DW6engagedaprofessionalengineer,MrKohBockCheng,tochecktheshoringdesignfortheopentrench

excavation.MrKoh’scalculationsweresubmittedtoMOEpriortotheexcavation.

151.DW6admittedknowingthathehadtocarry outapre­conditionsurvey beforecommencingexcavation.It

wasaconditionoftheinsurancepolicytakenoutfortheprojectthathecarriedoutapre­conditionsurvey.DW6

saidhewenton2occasionstothepremisesbutnoonewasathome.Asnopre­conditionsurveywasdone,his

insurersdidnotentertainthedefendants’claims.

152.Inhisaffidavit,DW6statedthattheactualexcavationcommencedon5January1996andwascompleted

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on9January1996.Thecracksappearedon15January1996afterexcavationhadbeencompleted.Hesaidthat

itwasnotpossibletoalignallthetimbershoringinaruler­straightlineanditcouldnotbesaidhewasnegligent

fornothavingdoneso.

153.Headmittedthattherewaswaterinthetrenchwhichhadtobepumpedout.Ifthegroundhadsettled,itwas

becausethewatertablehadbeenloweredtherebycausingthecracks.DW6admittedthattheypumpedwaterout

ofthetrencheverymorningfor40to45minutesviaa2"diametersumppump.Waterpumpedoutwasclean

waterwithoutanysandorearth.(Seepages142and143oftheNotesofEvidenceon18March1998).Inany

event,DW6clarifiedinre­examinationthattherewasnosandinthesoilthere.

154.DW6saidthattheownerhaddoneextensiverenovationsandadditionstothepremises.Inparticular,anew

terracewaserectedatthesecondfloor.Hesawmanyoldcracksinthepremises.Theseoldcrackscouldbedue totheextensiverenovations tothebuildingwhichrestedonabeamslabsystemwithout piledfoundations on poorsoil.

155. DW6allegedthat theplaintiff hadtoldhimduringthehouseinspectionon16January 1996that 2of the

bedroomdoorscouldnotbeclosedproperlyforyearsduetomisalignment.DW6statedthatthenewcrackswere

thecontinuationoftheprocesswhichhadcommencedalongtimeagoandhadnothingtodowithhissewerage

works.

156.Whenhewasreferredtophotographsnos2and3duringcross­examination,DW6admittedthatthestrutsat

thefistlevelweremorethan2’butwerelessthan3’belowthegroundlevel.Thedeviationfromthedesignwas

slight.Hewasalsoreferredtophotographs55and56andDW6statedthattherunnerswerestainedwithsome

silt.DW6admittedthattheverticaltimbersorrunnerswereslantingbuttheywerestraightwhentheywerefirst

drivenintotheground.Inre­examination,DW6saidhepersonallysawtheserunnersbeingdrivenin.Ifthiswere

so, thentheimplicationwouldbethat thevertical timbershoringinphotographs 55and56hadsubsequently givenway.

157.Herelatedhowtheshoringwasdoneasfollows:­

FirstIdigabout2’down.ThenIinsert2planks,runners,oneachside.ThenIputinthe6"x6"waler.ThenIput

inthestruts at bothends. SoI insert runners. ThenI digformoreearthtoadepthof 4’. Afterthat weput in

another2x6"walers.ThenIputintwostrutsateachend.Sothe2strutsare8’apart,andweputanotherstrut

inbetweenmaking4’apart.Whenthewalerof12’isplaced,thefirst2strutsaresecuredabout2’inwardsfrom

theends of thewaler. Thereforethespacebetweenthe2struts is 8’. Theinsertionof anintermediatestrut,

makesthespacingofthestruts4’apart.

Wethengetpeopletocleartheearth.Afterclearingtheearth,theoldpipeisexposed.Thenwecontinuetodig,

todoothersections.Eachsectionis12’.Thesameprocessisrepeateduntilthetrenchiscompleted.Afterthe

trench is completed, we remove the old pipe by breaking it up first. After the old pipe is removed, we also removedtheconcretebaseof about 3" completely. Thenwedidbakaupilingforabout 2days, on10and11

January96.Becausethebakaupilesareofdifferentlengths,welevelthebakaupileheadstothesameheightof

about2".3daystocutthepilesandremovethedebrisandputinquarrydust,steelreinforcementanddothe

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formworkalsoinsections.Aftertheformworkiscompleted,concreteispouredonthenextday.Concretetook1

daytoset.Thenweputinnewpipe.Eachpipesectionisabout1to2mlong.

IhadadiscussionwithMOEpeoplewhowantedthejobtobedoneasquicklyaspossible.SoIremovedthe

lowerlevelofstruts.Thosestrutsintheway,Iremoved.Notsurehowmanyofthelowerlevelstrutswerestillin

place.

However,Ididnotremoveanyoftheupperlevelstruts.

158.Photographno.2wasshowntoDW6anditwassuggestedtohimthattherunnersontheleftsideofthe

trenchhadslippedandmovedandthathisworkerstriedtoarrangethembackinlineafterhavingstuffedsome soilatthesidetogetherwithsomeplankstocovertheholecausedbytheslippageoftheplanksandthelossof soilintothetrench. DW6saidthat therewas anelectricalbox ontheleft andtherewerecableducts. Sothe runnershadtobeinsertedatanangletoavoidthecables.Whenheinsertedtherunners,heputinsoil.

159.Itwasputtohimthattherewasheavyrainduringtheexcavationworksandsomeoftheverticalrunners,

slippedandmovedandearthfellintothetrenchfromthesides.DW6saidtherewasnorainandnoslippage.

Analysisoftheevidenceandfindings

Additionalloadingduetorenovations

160.Intheirdefence,thedefendantsattributedthecauseofthecrackstothe

renovationsandnewstructuresputinbytheplaintiff.Thoughtherenovationshadincreasedtheloadingonthe existingstructure,Ididnotthinkthattheincreasedloadingcausedthesesuddencracks.Noseriouscrackshad appearedsincethecompletionof therenovations. Thefoundationandsoil conditionwereabletosustainthe increasedloadingformanyyearsandtherewasnoreasonwhytheycouldnotcontinuetodoso.Thefactthata long continuous crack had suddenly appeared on the ground at the front car porch area, not subject to any additionalstructuralloading,showedthattherenovationsandnewstructurescouldnothavebeenthecause.

161.Thedefendants’counselspentaconsiderableamountoftimequestioningandputtingtheircaseparticularly

totheplaintiff’sexpertwitnessPW4ontherenovationsandincreasedstructuralloading.ItwasputtoPW4thatit

was possible that all the cracks could have been caused by the renovations to the house. I accepted the explanation by PW4 that if there was any effect due to the renovation work completed about 20 years ago,

crackswouldhavehappenedthen,andnotin1996,whentherewerereportsoffreshcracksoccurringsoonafter

thetrenchhadbeendugby thedefendants. Excavationof theentiretrenchtofulldepthwas completedon9

January1996.Cracksappearedon14January1996.Seweragepipereplacementworkwascompletedandthe

trenchwasbackfilledon19January1996.

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162.Afterrealisingthatthiswasnotgoingtohelpadvancetheircase,thedefendantsabandonedthisdefence.

Noevidencewasledfromthedefendants’expertDW1tosubstantiatethisaspectoftheirdefence.Neitherwere

thereanysubmissionsmadebydefendants’counselthattheplaintiff’srenovationshadcausedthecracks.

163.Inanyevent,thedefendantscouldnotshifttheblametotheplaintiffonthebasisthatthepremisesshould

havestrongerstructuralfortifications towithstandwhateversoilsubsidencethatmightariseoutoftheirtrench excavation.Theplaintiff’spremisesmighthavebeenmoresusceptibletosubsidenceduetotherenovationsand theincreasedstructuralloading.Butthedefendantshadtotakethe‘victim’astheyfoundhim.

164.Inthelawoftort,this is commonly referredtoas the‘thinskullrule’.Ifitis reasonabletoforeseesome injury,howeverslight,totheplaintiff,assuminghimtobeanormalperson,thenthedefendantsareanswerable forthefullextentoftheinjurywhichhemaysustainowingtosomepeculiarsusceptibility.Thisprincipleiswell

establishedinthecaseofphysicalinjury(e.g.SmithvLeechBrain[1962]2QB405)andthereisnoreasonwhy

theprincipleshouldnotapplytopropertydamage:seeegClerk&Lindsell(1995)para7­192.

Soilproperties

165.Anumberofwitnesseshadgivenevidenceofwhattheysawwhenthe3trialpitsandthetrenchweredug.

Thefreestandingorunshoredtrialpitsof1.5m(orabout5’)depthdidnotcollapse.Thesoildugoutwasblack

peatyclay.Thepeatyclaywasnotverywetorsoggy.Therewashardlyanysandinit.Thatthiswasthekindof

soilpresentcouldnotbeseriouslydisputed.

166. Althoughtheboreholes 2and3suggestedthepresenceof somesandat depths less than3m, thesoil

therewasclosertothatofborehole9whichindicatedathicklayerofverysoftdarkbrownorganicpeatyclaysoil

between0.6mand5.4mdepth.ThesoilconditionatNo72wasratherpoor.

167. After hearing the evidence, I accepted the opinion of DW1 that in­situ vane shear tests were more

appropriateinsoftclayeysoilconditionsandwouldgivemoreaccurateandhigherCvaluesthanthoseobtained fromboreholesoilsamplestestedinthelaboratory.Thelaboratorytestswereunreliableduetothedisturbanceof thesamplesduringcollectionandtransportation.TherewassupportingliteratureonthisbasedontheNanyang Technology Instituteof Singapore­PaperonCaseHistories insoft clay (D3), whichwas not disputedby the

plaintiff’sexpertPW4.

168.BothexpertwitnessesPW4andDW1cametothesameconclusionbasedontheircalculationsthatblack

peatyclaywithanassumedCvalueof15kN/m 2 wouldnothavebeenabletosupportthedesignloadsusedfor thepadfootingfoundationsforthehouseunlesstherewasbakaupilingortheCvaluefortheblackpeatyclay

wasinfactmuchhigherthan15kN/m 2 .Noonecouldbesureifindeedbakaupilingordeeperpadfootingswere usedintheconstruction. But I certainly didnot accept theopinionof PW4that thebuildingwas stillstanding

becauseitwassittingonloosesandwithafvaluerangingfrom20 o to30 o whenhetriedtoexplainwhy the

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househadnotcollapsed.

169.Inmyopinion,whatshouldhavebeentheactualCorfvaluesforthesoilatNo72neednotreallyconcern

us.Thiscasecouldbedecidedwithouttheneedtohavetheactualsoilpropertiesdeterminedasafact.

Trenchshoringdesignandconstruction

170. I did not think that the trench shoring design was inadequate. The formula used and the computations

themselveswerenotchallengedbytheplaintiff’sexpertPW4.Onlythecorrectsoilparametersassumedforthe

calculationswerechallenged.

171.ThesoilparametersofC=15kN/m 2 ,f=5 o usedinthecomputationappearednottobeoverlyoptimistic. Thefact that thehousehadnot collapsedindicatedthat theactual Cvaluewouldhavebeenhigherthan15

kN/m 2 .Thefactthattheremovalofthelowerlevelstrutstofacilitatethelayingofthenewpipeshadnotresulted in any collapse of the trench shoring indicated that there was sufficient safety margin in the original trench shoringdesignapprovedbytheprofessionalengineerMrKohBockCheng.

172.Whethertheconstructionwasinaccordancewiththedesignwasanothermatter.Agooddesignwouldbeof

nouseifthecontractorfailedtoconstructinaccordancewiththatdesignandhisworkmanshipwasnotuptothe

requiredstandard.

173.IacceptedtheevidenceofDW4andDW6onhowthetrenchshoringwasconstructed.Iwasoftheopinion

thatthesequenceofconstructionofthetrenchshoringandthewaytheexcavatorwasusedtodigonlythefirst6

feetleavingmanuallabourtofinishthebottom2to3feetwerebothinaccordancewiththeacceptedpracticeof

theconstructionindustry.Ididnotfindanythingwrongorimproperwiththeconstructionsequenceadoptedbythe

defendants.

174.However,thedefendantscouldhavedoneamuchbetterjobofpushingintheverticalrunnerssuchthatthey

werebetteralignedtominimisethegaps betweenthevertical runners. Photographs 2and3showedthat the runners, particularly thosenearertoNo72, wereratherpoorly laid. I didnot accept theexplanationofferedby DW6that therunners wereinsertedat anangletoavoidthecableducts from theelectrical box becausethe misalignment stretchedoveraconsiderablelengthof thetrenchaway fromtheelectricalbox. Photographs 55

and56alsoshowedtheextentofthemisalignment.Someoftheblacksoilcouldbeseenseepingthoughthe

gaps.Themisalignmenthereobviouslycouldnotbetheresultofavoidinganyelectricalductsassomeofthe runnerswereverticalandsomewerenot.Iwouldhaveexpectedthemtobesimilarlyangledifindeedtherewere

anyelectricalductsrunningparalleltothelengthofthetrenchline.Infact,DW5statedinhisinvestigationreport

thattherewaslateralmovementwiththetimberplanksgivingwayascouldbeseeninphotographs55and56

which he took. Whetherthe misalignment was due to the poorconstruction orsubsequent giving way of the timberplanks,itwouldnothavebeenacceptableinanycase.

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175.AlthoughIacceptedthatitwasnotpossibletolayaruler­straightlineofrunners,neverthelessIthinkthe

workmanship of the defendants was something less than acceptable judging from the ordinary standard of a

reasonablycompetentcontractor.Photographs10to16ofD9takenatanotherconstructionsitewouldbeagood

exampleofwhatIconsideredtobetheconstructionstandardthatIwouldexpectfromareasonablycompetent

contractor.Inmyopinion,thedefendantswerenegligentintheirerectionoftheverticaltimberrunnersthatwere

notproperlyalignedorweregivingway.

176.Theratherpoorlyerectedtimberrunnersallowedseepageandlossofsoilfromthesidesofthetrenchwall

intothetrench.Thegreaterlateralsoilpressurenearerthetrenchbottomwouldforcemoresoiloutthroughthe

gapsbetweenthemisalignedtimberrunners.Thewidergapsalsoallowedtheundergroundwaterseepingthrough

tocarrymoresoilintothetrench.

177. DW4saidthat themainjobon12January 1996was theremovalof silt anddebris fromthetrench. The workersusedspadesandbucketstoremovethesiltandsludgysoil.Theytookthewholedaytodothat.Itis

importanttonotethattheexcavationofthetrenchwascompleted3daysearlieron9January1996.Bakaupiling

wasdoneon10and11January1996.Iftherewasnosoilleakageintothetrench,therewouldhavebeenlittle

needtospendsomuchtimetodigoutthesiltaroundthebakaupiles.DW4appearedtosuggestthatthesilt

formationwascausedbypumpingwateroutofthetrenchwhichstirredupthesilt.

178.Inmyopinion,theinletsuctionofthepumpmighthavecausedsomelocaliseddisturbanceofthewaterand

soilnearthatinletsuctionhead.Butthatwouldnotneednearly thewholeday toresolve.Theextensivework suggestedtomethatasubstantialportionoftheentirelengthofthetrenchmusthavesiltedup.Clearly,there musthaveafairamountofsoilleakageintothetrenchthroughoutitsentirelengthaftertheexcavationhadbeen

completedon9January1996.Ialsonotedthatthecracksappearedon14January.Thustherewassufficient

opportunityforthesoilorsoilmixedwithwatertocontinuetoseepthroughthepoorlyalignedtimberrunnersinto

thetrenchfor5moredaysbeforethecrackseventuallyappeared.However,Ididnotthinkthatthelossofsoil

wassosignificantastohavebeenthesoleormajorcauseofthenewcracksinthehouse.

179.Thelossofsoilintothetrenchduetothepoorshoringconstructionwasonlyaminorcontributorycause.

Collapseofthetrench

180.TheplaintiffhadtakenoutsummaryjudgmentproceedingsagainstthedefendantssometimeinJune1996.

InalltheaffidavitsanddocumentsfiledintheOrder14hearingandintheappealthatfollowed,therewereno

allegationsthatthetrenchhadcollapsed.

181.DW2,whowasfirstengagedbytheplaintifftoconductastructuralsurveyandidentifythepossiblecauses

of thecracks, testifiedthat noonetoldhim that thetrenchhadcollapsed. If indeedtherewas suchamajor mishapas acompletecollapseof thetrenchshoringandthetrenchwall, counselandDW2wouldlikely have

beentoldofit.TheallegationswouldprobablyhavesurfacedintheOrder14affidavitsbutdidnot.

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182.Afterthecracksappeared,thecontractor,theengineersandsitesupervisorsvisitedthepremisesonafew

occasions. Thoseof them whotestifiedsaidthey werenot toldthat therehadbeenacollapseof thetrench. Againthatomissionwasquitetelling.

183. Further, DW4wouldprobably haverecordedthat event inhis sitediary if therehadbeenacollapse. His superiorswouldbenotifiedaccordingly.Givingwayofthetimberplankswouldhaveendangeredthelivesofthe workersworkingatthebottomofthetrench.ItwouldbeofconcerntotheSewerageDepartmentoftheMinistry

ofEnvironment.Workwouldlikelybestopped.IcouldnotseehowDW4couldhavesimplysweptthatincident

underthecarpet.

184.ItwasonlyatthetrialthatPW1allegedforthefirsttimeduringhiscross­examinationthatitrainedheavily

oneeveningandblacksoilflowedoutcontinuouslyfromthesidesoftheplanksintothetrench.Thecontractors kept digging out the soil and transported the soil away by trucks. I had difficulty accepting this evidence. It seemedimprobablethat this witness wouldbestandingintheheavy rainintheeveningtoobservewhat was happeninginsidethetrench.Itwouldalsotakeextremely goodeyesighttoseeblack soilflowingoutfromthe gapsbetweentheplanksintothepresumablydarktrenchthatevening.Furthermore,whyshouldtheworkersbe workingintheheavyrainintheeveningtodigoutthesoil?

185.Theplaintiff,PW2,allegedthatduringaheavydownpour,thewallsofthetrenchcollapsedcompletelyand

thetrenchwasfilledwithmud.Thedefendantssimplyremovedthemudandcontinuedwiththeirexcavation.The struttings andothersupports wereonly put upafterthetrenchwas excavated. AccordingtoPW2, thecracks appearedbeforethetrenchcollapsed.Whenaskedhowextensivewasthecollapse,shesaidthatafewplanks collapsed.Whenthecontractorspulledoutthecollapsedplanks,earthfellintothetrench.Strangely,shenever

toldhersonPW1ofthecollapse.YetshetoldtheothersonPW3,whodidnotstaywithher.

186.Ifitweretruethatthecracksappearedbeforethetrenchhadcollapsed,thenthecauseofthecrackscould

neverbeattributedtothecollapse.Herevidencethatthecracksappearedbeforethecollapsewascontradicted

byPW3.Thismaterialcontradictiongivesmesomegroundtodoubtthetruthoftheirallegation.

187.PW3saidinhisaffidavitevidence­in­chiefthatafewdaysafterthedefendantsbegandigging,thewallsof

thetrenchcompletely collapsed. At least 80% of thevertical planks werenolongervertical. Thedefendants quicklyputuptheboardsandhorizontalstruttingsatthetrench.Theyevenbroughtsoiltofillthegapstomake thesides appearstraight andhidethefact that thetrenchhadcollapsed. A fewdays afterthecollapse, the cracksinthepremisessurfaced.

188.Onthenextmorning,theywerestillstuffingintheyellowsoilandputtinginthecrossbeamsandhorizontal

beams. They continued for 3 mornings and 2 afternoons. On the third morning, they completed erecting the

horizontalandcrossbeams.ItwasabigjobaccordingtoPW3.Whenputtohimthattherewasnosuchcollapse

ofthetrench,PW3saiditwastrueashesawitwithhisowneyes.

189.InotedthatPW3wasnotaparticularlyreliablewitness.Hewasobviouslywrongwhenhetestifiedthathe

sawthetrenchbeingdugfromthefrontofthehousetothebackofthehouse.

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190.IcomparedthesequenceasdescribedbyPW3withthediaryofeventskeptbyMrNgeow.Accordingto

thatdiary,excavationcommencedonFriday5January1996.BytheendofTuesday9January1996,excavation

wascompletedandtheystartedbakaupilingon10January1996.

191.Ifthecollapsehadoccurredafewdaysaftertheexcavationhadcommencedandittookanother3mornings

and2afternoonstostuffintheyellowsoilandputinthecrossbeamsandwalers,thentheworkschedulewould

havegonewaypastthe10January1996,thedatetheystartedthebakaupiling.Thedelayintheworkfor2days

wouldhaveshownupinthesitediary.Thediarycouldnothavereflected10January1996tobethedatethat

bakaupilingcommenced. Werethecontractortobringsuchanenormous amount of soil todostuffingfor3

morningsand2afternoons,MrNgeowwouldmostcertainlyhavenoticed.MrNgeowtestifiedthathedidnotsee

thecontractorstuffingyellowsoilintothegaps.

192.Thecontinuous lorry loads ofyellowsoilwereprobably thosebroughtinby thedefendants tobackfillthe trenchafterthenewsewerpipewaslaidandnotthatusedtostufftheallegedgapsinthegroundafterthesides ofthetrenchhadcollapsed.

193.DW1tookmeasurementsoftheinclinationoftheboundarywallatNo72usingaplumbline.Hefoundthatit

was stillverticalwithintheconstructiontoleranceof about 5mmforthedistanceof aman’s height. I hadno reasontosuspectanyerrorinthesemeasurements.Inmyview,iftherewasamajorcollapseofthetrenchwith significant loss of soil from the sides of the trench, the failure would have caused serious cracks and more

pronouncedtiltingoftheboundarywall,whichwasonlyabout1.4mfromtheedgeofthetrenchandwellwithin

theslipcirclefailurezone.Thefactthattheboundarywallandthedrain­lineswererelativelyunaffectedindicated

thattherewasnoseriouslossofsoilintothetrencharisingfromacollapse.

194.Forthereasonsgiven,Iwasnotinclinedtobelievethattherewasanalmosttotalcollapseofthetrenchas

describedbythewitnessesfortheplaintiff.Inmyopinion,thisfactwasnotprovedonabalanceofprobability.

195.NeitherdidIaccepttheevidenceoftheplaintiff’switnessesthatthedefendantshadnotusedcross­beams

orstrutstosupportthetrenchtimberrunnersformingthewallsofthetrenchpriortoitscollapse.Ihadnoreason todisbelieveMrNgeowwhogaveagooddescriptionofhowthedefendantsproceededtodotheworkfromthe first day of excavation on the 5 January 1996 to the 19 January 1996 when the trench was backfilled upon completionofthework.

196.PW3saidtherewerenohorizontalstrutsandwalersusedinthetrenchshoring.Fromthecomputationsand

theevidenceof theexpert witnesses PW4andDW1, I cametotheconclusionthat theunsupportedvertical

timberrunnerswouldhavealmostimmediatelyfallenintothetrenchasthetoeinginofamere3’intothesoftsoil

atthebottomofthetrenchwouldnotbeabletosustainthesideloadingonthetimberrunnersforatrenchdugto thefull depth of 2.7m. Clearly, theplaintiff’s witnesses wereembellishingandexaggeratingthefacts inan attempttostrengthentheircase.

197.Asfortheinitialincompletestrutting,therewasobviouslynoneedtofullystrutthewalerswhentheystarted

diggingandthetrenchwas stillshallow. Thelateralforces wouldbemuchlowerandhencethefullsystemof

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struts would not be necessary at that stage. But when a depth of about 6’ was reached, I believed that the defendants hadput inplaceall therequiredwalers andstruts inaccordancewiththedesignapprovedby the

professionalengineer,beforetheycontinueddiggingmanuallytothefulltrenchdepthof2.7m(orabout9’).

198.IalsodidnotaccepttheevidenceofPW3thatthetimberrunnersinthetrenchinitiallywerenotthatshown

inphotographs2and3butthethinnerandbroadertimberplanksthatcouldbeseenlyingonthegroundadjacent

tohouseNo70.Iwasinclinedtobelievetheevidenceofthedefendants’witnessesthatthosetimberswerefor

theconcreteformworkandwereneverusedastimberrunnersforthetrench.

AlternativemethodsofconstructionproposedbyPW4

199.IacceptedtheexpertopinionofDW5fromPresscreteEngineeringPteLtd.thatjetgroutingmightnotbe

suitablenoreffectivebecauseofpossiblegrounddisplacementduetotheshallowdepthofthesoiltreatment,

whichinturncouldcausecrackstonearbystructures.Further,theacidicpeatyclaymightweakenthejetgrout

columns.

200.Pipejackingmethodwas obviously tooexpensiveamethodtousefortheshortlengthofseweragepipe

replacementadjacenttoNo72.Plaintiff’scounselquiterightlyabandonedpushingthispointinhissubmission.

Existenceofgroundsubsidence

201. I acceptedthesurvey results of PW5that thegradient was 1:38fortheapronareaslopingtowards the

trench.Thesurveyshowedthattheapronattheboundarywallwas6.6cmlowerthanthatatroom1Ai.e.the

apronslabslopedtowardstheboundarywall.IalsoacceptedtheopinionofPW4thatagradientof1:38wasnot

anormalconstructiongradient.Althoughtherewasnosurveyconductedpriortotheconstructionofthetrench,it was reasonabletoinferthat theevidenceof theunusually steepgradient of theapronslabfallingtowards the

trenchindicatedthattherewassettlementofthegroundduetosoilsubsidence,whichgenerallyincreasedasone

approachedthetrench.

202. Inthis case, therewas noevidenceof any earthquakes. Thehousewas not hit by hurricaneorby other

external forces above the ground. Nothing heavy dropped on the building or apron slab to cause the kind of

cracksshowninthephotographs.Theonlyidentifiablecauseofthecrackswasgroundsettlement.Thecracking

wasitselfamanifestationofthesoilsubsidencehavingtakenplacebeneaththestructure.

203. The defendants could not seriously dispute that the cracks were not caused by subsidence. In fact,

defendants’counselinhissubmissionsagreedunequivocallythatiftherewerenewcracks,theywerecausedby

soilsubsidence.

204.Onthetotalityoftheevidence,Ifoundthatsoilsubsidencehadoccurredunderneaththepremisesduring

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theexcavationofthetrenchbythedefendants.

205.Thenextobviousquestionwaswhocausedthegroundsubsidence.Itmustfollowthatwhoevercausedthe

groundsubsidencedidcausethenewcrackstodevelopinthepremises.

Whetherthedefendantscausedthesubsidenceandtheresultingcracks

206.Thedefendantsweretheonlyonesexcavatingnearthepremises.Theyhadfullcontrolofandwereentirely

responsiblefortheexcavation.Therewasnoothertrenchbeingdugaroundthevicinitythatcouldaccountforthe

lossofsoiloraloweringofthewatertable,whichinthiscase,weretheonlytraceablecausesofsoilsubsidence.

207.Counselforthedefendantscategoricallystatedthatitwastheircasethatthecrackswerecausedbythe

drawingofwaterfromthetrench,resultinginaloweringofthewatertable,therebycausingsettlementandthis

drawingoutofthewaterwasbythedefendants.(Seepage25oftheNotesofevidenceattheadjournedhearing

on16March1998.)Itwasthereforenotdisputedthatdewateringofthesurroundingsoildidcausesettlementof

thegroundwhichinturncausedtheaffectedstructurestocrack.

208.Thedefendants’ManagingDirector,DW6,admittedthatwaterwaspumpedoutofthetrencheverymorning

for40to45minutesviaa2"diametersumppump.Whendoneoveraperiodofseveraldays,itwassufficientin

my opinion to cause the surrounding ground to settle. This I believe was themajor causeof the extensive crackingtothehouse. I acceptedtheevidenceof thedefendants’ownexpert witness DW1that theinfluence zoneofdewateringforsettlementwasmoreextensivethanthatforsoilloss.

209.Onabalanceofprobability,Ifoundthatitwasthedefendantswhocausedthegroundsubsidenceandnew

cracksby:

(a)pumpingoutwaterfromthetrenchtherebyloweringthewatertableintheimmediatevicinityofthepremises;

and

(b)allowinglossofsoilfromthesideofthetrenchadjacenttothepremisesbecauseoftheseepagebetweenthe

ratherpoorlyconstructedtimbershoring.

Second issue:whethertheplaintiffcould maintain an action in negligencewherewhatwasabstracted waswaterpercolatingundergroundinundefinedchannels

210.Givenmy findingthatthemajorcauseforthegroundsubsidencewas thepumpingoutofwaterfromthe

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trench,Ihadtodeterminewhethersuchactions ofthedefendants wereactionable.Thedefendants’casewas

basedlargelyonthesomewhatpeculiarruleinActonvBlundell[1834]12M.&W.324,viz.thattheownerofthe

land owed no duty to prevent the subsidence of his neighbour’s land caused by the abstraction of water, percolatingundergroundinundefinedchannels.ThedefendantsreliedonthefollowingpassageinClerk&Lindsell

atpara18­75:

Thereisnorighttohaveland… supportedbywater.Thereforetopumpoutpercolatingwaterfromexcavations andtocausetherebydamagetoaneighbour’sbuildingbygroundsubsidenceisnotactionableasanuisance, and this is so whether an injured party claims in nuisance or in negligence. There is no duty of care to a neighbour,inabstractingpercolatingwater,toavoidcausingsubsidence.

211. InActonv Blundell, theplaintiff sunk awell inhis property forraisingwaterfortheworkingof his mill. Subsequently thedefendant sunk twocoal pits inhis landadjacent totheplaintiff’s. Theresult was that the supplyofwatertotheplaintiff’smillwasconsiderablydiminishedandtheplaintiffsuedforinterferencewithhis rightofenjoymentofthewaterflowingunderhisland.TindalCJheld:

…wethinkthepresentcase…isnottobegovernedbythelawwhichappliestoriversandflowingstreams,but thatitratherfallswithinthatprinciple,whichgivestotheownerofthesoilallthatliesbeneathhissurface;that thelandimmediatelybelowishisproperty,whetheritissolidrock,orporousground,orvenousearth,orpartsoil, partwater;thatthepersonwhoowns thesurfacemay digtherein,andapply allthatis therefoundtohis own purposesathisfreewillandpleasure;andthatif,intheexerciseofthatright,heinterceptsordrainsoffthewater collectedfromundergroundsprings inhis neighbour’s well, this inconveniencetohis neighbourfalls withinthe descriptionofdamnumabsqueinjuria,whichcannotbecomethegroundofanaction’.

212.ActonvBlundellhadbeenappliedinEnglandinLangbrookPropertiesLtdvSurreyCountyCouncil[1970]1

W.L.R.161,inStephensvAnglianWaterAuthority[1987]1WLR1381andlocally inSingaporeFinanceLtdv

LimKahNgam(S’pore)PteLtd.&EugeneH.L.ChanAssociates(ThirdParty)[1984]2M.L.J.202.InLangbrook

Properties,theplaintiffsclaimeddamagesfornuisanceandnegligenceagainstthedefendants,andallegedthat by pumpingout excavations onlandinthevicinity of theplaintiffs’land, thedefendants hadabstractedwater percolating beneath the plaintiffs’ land. Plowman J held that the plaintiffs had no cause of action since the defendants were entitled to abstract the waterundertheirland percolating in undefined channels to whatever extenttheychose,notwithstandingthatthisresultedintheabstractionofwaterpercolatingbeneaththeplaintiffs’ landandtherebycauseddamage.

213.TheruleinActonvBlundellwouldbeinapplicableiftherightofsupportthatwasabstractedwassiltorwet

sandorotherpartiallyliquidsubstance.Theownerdidnothave,asanincidentofhisownershipatcommonlaw,

theequivalentrighttohavethesurfaceofhislandsupportedbywater:PopplewellvHodkinson(1869)L.R.4Ex.

248.Howevertheownerhadarighttothesupportofhislandinitsnaturalstatefromtheadjacentandsubjacent

landoftheneighbouringowners.InJordesonvSutton,SouthcoatesandDrypoolGasCo.[1899]2Ch217,where

thesubstanceabstractedfrombeneaththeplaintiff’slandwasnotwaterbutrunningsilt,resultinginsubsidence

ofthesurface,thedefendantswereliablefortheconsequentstructuralinjurytotheplaintiff’shouses.Herewhat

wasabstractedwasnottotallypercolatingundergroundwater;thepremisesweresupportedbygroundconsisting

largelyofpeatyclaywithahighmoisturecontent(silt),whereitwasbelowthewatertable.Watertogetherwitha

fairamountofsiltfounditswayintothetrenchandthesewerepumpedoutorremovedfromthetrenchbythe

defendants.ThedefendantsthereforecouldnotrelyontheruleinActonvBlundell.

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214. InthecaseofCabot v Kingman166Mass. Rep. 403decidedby theSupremeCourt of Massachusetts, FieldC.J,said:

Whatevermaybetrueofpercolatingwaters,wethinkthatthedefendantshadnorighttotakeawaythesoilofthe plaintiffinlandwhichtheyhadnottakenunderthestatutes,andthatitisimmaterialthatthesoilwasremovedby meansofpumps fromthetrenchintowhichithadfallenby itsownweight,orhadbeencarriedby percolating water.Weareunabletodistinguishthecasefromonewherethesoilfallsinfromthesurfaceinconsequenceof anexcavationintheadjoiningland.Theplaintiff,ifthefactsbeasheofferedtoprove,hasbeendeprivedofthe lateralsupporttohisland,inconsequenceofwhichthequicksandhasrunfromunderthesurfaceofhislandinto thetrench,andhasbeenremovedbymeansofpumps,andthishascausedthesurfacetosettleandcrack.It wasthedutyofthedefendantstopreventthisinsomemanner,iftheydidnottaketheplaintiff’sland.

215.Givenmyfindingthatwhatwasabstractedwasnotpurelypercolatingwaterundertheplaintiff’sland,itwas

strictly not necessary todecideif theruleinActonv Blundellwas applicableinSingapore. Howeveras there wereextensiveargumentsbeforemeandforcompleteness,Iwoulddealwiththatquestion.Counselarguedthat thecommonlawrulefoundinActonvBlundellwasbindingontheSingaporeHighCourt,relyingonLaiKewChai

J’sdecisioninSingaporeFinance.LaiJheldatp205:

Inmyconsideredopinion,theEnglishcommonlawwhichwasfirstdeclaredinActonvBlundellisreceivedinto andisapartofthelawofSingapore.HavingregardtothereasonsinsupportoftheruleinActonvBlundellwhich I had examined and which operate with particular force and validity between neighbouring owners, whose respectiverights havetobegivendueweight andcarefully balanced, I amof theviewthat that theCanadian caseofPugliesehasnoapplicationtoandbearsacrucialdistinctionfromthecasebeforeme…

216.TodeterminewhetherActonvBlundellwasindeedbindingonme,theissuesofstaredecisisandreception

hadtobecarefullyexamined.NoassistancecouldbeobtainedfromtheApplicationofEnglishLawAct(Cap7A)

(‘AELA’).Section3oftheAELAmerelypreservedthepositionasitstoodpriortotherepealofsection5ofthe

CivilLawAct(Cap.43).Section3AELAprovidesthat:

(1)ThecommonlawofEngland(includingtheprinciplesandrulesofequity),sofarasitwaspartofthelawof

Singaporeimmediatelybefore12 th November1993,shallcontinuetobepartofthelawofSingapore.

(2)The common lawshall continue to be in force in Singapore as provided in subsection (1), so faras it is applicable to the circumstances of Singapore and its inhabitants and subject to such modifications as those circumstancesmayrequire.

217. Hencetheapplicability of thecommonlawof Englandcontinuedtobegovernedby thepositionpriorto

12 th November1993.ThecommonlawwasreceivedintoSingaporeonlyviatheSecondCharterofJustice1826

andundersection5oftheCivilLawAct.

218.Section5(1)oftheCivilLawAct(sincerepealed)isasfollows:

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(1)Subjecttothissection,inallquestionsorissueswhichariseorwhichhavetobedecidedinSingaporewith

respecttothelawofpartnerships,corporations,banksandbanking,principalsandagents,carriersbyair,land andsea,marineinsurance,average,lifeandfireinsurance,andwithrespecttomercantilelawgenerally,thelaw withrespecttothosematterstobeadministeredshallbethesameaswouldbeadministeredinEnglandinthe likecase, at thecorrespondingperiod, if suchquestionorissuehadarisenorhadtobedecidedinEngland, unlessinanycaseotherprovisionisorshallbemadebyanylawhavingforceinSingapore.

219.ActonvBlundell,whichdealtwiththelawofnegligenceandnuisance,clearlywasnotdealingwithmatters

relatingtomercantilelawandassuch,couldnothavebeenreceivedundersection5oftheCivilLawAct.

220.WasActonvBlundellreceivedviatheSecondCharterofJustice1826?ActonvBlundellwasdecidedafter

theSecondCharterofJustice1826.ItwasadecisionoftheCourtofExchequerChambersin1843,acourtof

errorfromallthethreecommonlawcourts (Court of Exchequer, Court of CommonPleas andCourt of King’s Bench). It was the first English decision which laid down that rule. Tindal CJ refused to follow the earlier decisions governingsurfacestreamwhichprovidedthat theownercouldnot diminishthequality of waterthat naturallyflowedthroughhisland.IfLaiJinSingaporeFinancewasrightinholdingthattherulewasreceivedand waspartofthelawinSingapore,itcouldonlybethatitwasreceivedaspartoftheunwrittencommonlawpriorto

1826.Thiswouldmeanthatthecommonlawwasreceivedasacontinuingbasisunderthedeclaratorytheoryof

thecommonlaw. Undersuchatheory, this rulewouldbeconsideredtohavealways existedinEnglandand therefore,itcouldbesaidthatitmusthavecometoSingaporeundertheSecondCharter.Thiswouldmeanthat all commonlawdecisions inEnglandafter1826arestill beingreceivedintoSingaporetoday by virtueof the SecondCharter.Itisdoubtfulthatisthecorrectlegalposition.

221.Thecaselawsupportstheplaintiff’spropositionthatpost­receptioncommonlawdecisionsinEnglandwould

notbebinding.InJamilbinHarunvYangKamsiahBte.MeorRasdi[1984]2WLR668,aPrivyCouncildecision

from Malaysia, it was arguedthat thecommonlawof damages inLim PohChoov Camden& IslingtonArea

HealthAuthority[1979]2AllE.R.910,H.L.(E)wasinapplicablebecauseitwasdecidedafter1956.Malaysiahas

theCivilLawAct1956whichprovidedforthereceptionofEnglishcommonlawatacut­offdateof7April1956;

thisissimilartothecut­offreceptionundertheSecondCharterofJustice1826thatwehave.ThePrivyCouncil

heldthattheEnglishauthoritiesafterthatdatewereonlypersuasivebutnotbindinginMalaysia.Itfollowsthat

Englishauthoritiespost1826wouldcontinuetobehighlypersuasiveinSingaporebuttheyarenotbindingonthe

Singapore courts. Academic views also support this conclusion: see Walter Woon, The Singapore Legal

System(1989)Chapter4.

222. Theresult thenis that I havetoconsiderwhethertheSingaporecourts shouldadopt theruleinActonv Blundellasamatterofchoice.Oncarefulconsideration,Icametotheconclusionthatitshouldnotbethelawof Singapore.Withrespect,IfoundmyselfunabletoagreewithLaiJ’sdecisiononthispoint.InActonvBlundell, theplaintiffcomplainedofbeingcutofffromthewatercausedbythedefendants’action;itwasnotaclaimof physical damage to his land caused by loss of support. However, subsequent case law on the problem of subsidenceresultingfromtheabstractionofundergroundwatercamebeforetheEnglishcourtsinPopplewell v Hodkinson(1869) LR 4 Ex 248, which was followed in Bradford Corporation v Pickles [1895] AC 587 and inLangbrook.ThesecasesextendedtheprincipleinActonvBlundelltoonewheretherewasnorightofsupport oflandfromwater.

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223.Inmyopinion,thisextensiondoesnotappeartobejustifiableasitwentbeyondacaseofabstractionof

subterraneanwatercausingtheplaintifflossofsupplyofthatwater,toonewheretheabstractionofunderground watercausesgroundsubsidenceandstructuraldamagetoexistingbuildingsontheplaintiff’sland.Withrespect,

IfindmyselfunabletoagreewithSladeLJinStephensvAnglianWaterAuthority[1987]1W.L.R.1381wherehe

saidthatitwasa‘distinctionwithoutanyrealdifference’.IdonotthinkthattheruleinActonvBlundellcanbe justifiedtoday.ItmaybethatinoldEngland,thecourtshadtotakeintoaccounttherightofthelandownerto extract waterpercolatingundergroundfordrinkingpurposes andfarmlandirrigation. Evenif soil subsidenceof adjacentfarmlandresulted,Idonotthinkthedamage,ifany,wouldbesignificant.Ithinkthattheruleisclearly ill­adaptedtoconditionsinSingapore,wheremanyareasaredenselybuiltup,withadjacentbuildingsveryclose to,ifnotadjoiningeachother,andwherethereishardlyanymoreopenlandfarmingactivitiesbeingcarriedout. Drinkingwaterisnolongerdrawnfromwellssunkintotheground.Waterissuppliedbyanextensivesystemof waterpipestodistributewatertoallwhoneedit.

224.IamnotinclinedtofollowActonvBlundellbecausethereisinsufficientconsiderationgiventotherightsof

adjacentlandowners.Onehastobalancetherightsofalandownertohavesupportandtheproprietaryrightto exploit one’s land e.g. the right to pump water: Jordeson v Sutton. Rigby L.J. expounded the limitations as follows:

Therearetwodoctrinessufficientlyindicatedbythemaxims"Cujusestsolumejusestusqueadinferos,"and "Sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas," which have to be considered. These doctrines, driven to their logical extreme,areirreconcilable.Somepracticallimitationofonebytheotherhastobearrivedat.Thefirstdoctrine giveseverythingbelowthesurfacetothelandowner;butithasbeensettledthatbyreasonoftheseconddoctrine hecannottakeawayhisownmineralswiththeresultoflettingdownhisneighbour’ssurface,orancientbuildings on his neighbour’s land, to the damage of that neighbour, without being liable, so long as he remains in possessionofthechamberfromwhichthemineralshavebeenwithdrawn,toanactionbythatneighbour.Hereis oneplainandimportantlimitationofthelandowner’sright.

225.Therighttoexploitonone’slandshouldalwaysbequalifiedbythelawofnuisanceandnegligence.Iseeno

reasonwhytheabstractionofwatershouldbeimmunefromthatqualificationwhenthereiscarelessconductthat causesforeseeablephysicalharmtoone’sneighbour.Inmyopinion,extractionofminerals,waterandsiltmust yieldtotheneighbour’srightofsupport,wherethelossofthatsupportcausesphysicaldamage.Regardmustbe had to the interest and rights of neighbouring land owners. In civil society, a rule that allows unqualified exploitationoruseofone’slandintotaldisregardofwhateverconsequencesthatmayhaveonneighbouringland owners would hardly be acceptable. Discord and disharmony among neighbours would arise if proper considerationisnotgiventobothcompetingrights.

226. Howthecourt triedtobalancetherights of adjoininghouseowners canbeseeninthecaseof Bracev SouthEast RegionalHousingAssociation[1984]270EG1286.Theplaintiff therebrought anactionbasedon nuisanceandnegligenceagainsttheownersofanadjoininghouse.Thisadjoininghousewasdemolishedandthe ownersconvertedwhathadbeenapartywallintoaflankwall.Thedemolitionallowedthesubjacentclaytobe exposedtoatmosphericconditions.Whenthemoisturedriedout,therewasshrinkageinthesoil.Cracksinthe walls andceilings of theplaintiff’s housedevelopedwhichindicatedsubsidenceandaloss of support forthe house. The Court of Appeal considered Jordeson v Sutton and Langbrook Properties v Surrey CC. On the questionofliabilityinnuisancefortheinterferencewitharightofsupport,theCourtassumedthattherewasno righttosupportofwateritself.Howeverinthatcase,theplaintiffhadacquiredarightofsupportbythepartywall belongingtothedefendants. That walldependedonsupport fromtheclay soil. By alteringtheconditions and

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changing the land such that the moisture in the clay dried out, the defendants were held liable as they had interferedwithandweakenedthesupportthathadbeenprovided.Thecourtdistinguishedbetweenonewhotook waterinsomequantityfromthelandwhereitwas foundtobepercolatingandonewhodriedoutthemoisture contentoftheclay.

227.Counselfortheplaintiffsreferredmetodecidedcasesinotherjurisidictions,whichwereofmuchassistance

tome. I notedthatActonv Blundellhadnot beenfollowedinCanadaandhadbeendisapprovedinAustralia.

InPugliesevNationalCapitalCommission(1977)79DLR(3d)592,anextensivereviewwasmadeoftheEnglish

andAmericandecisionsafterActonvBlundell.Thedefendantswereconstructingacollectionsewerandhadto pumpsubterraneanwater.Thepumpingcausedthedifferentialsettlementoverthebaseoftheplaintiffs’homes, andthefoundationsofthehomessufferedcracking.Theysuedinnegligenceandnuisance.TheOntarioCourtof

Appealheldatp615asfollows:

While recognising the well­settled English rule as to the abstraction of percolating water, I consider that recognitionshouldbegivenatthesametimetotheequallywell­settleddoctrinesinthelawoftortswhichimpose liabilityforpropertydamagecausedbynegligenceandnuisance.Toconcludethatthosewhoabstractpercolating waterhaveanunbridledlicencetowreakhavocontheirneighbourswouldbeharshandentirelyoutofkeeping withthelawoftortsasitexiststoday…

Withreferencetothequestionreferredtothis Court, anownerof landdoes not haveanabsoluteright tothe supportofsubterraneanwaterwhichisnotflowinginadefinedchannelsothatdamagecausedbytheabstraction ofsuchwaterautomaticallygivesrisetoacauseofaction.Hisneighbourintheuserofhisownlandhasaright toabstractsuchsubterraneanwaterforhisownusewhichmayhavetheeffectofremovingthesupportofthe waterunderadjoiningland;but,similarly,theneighbour’srightisnotanabsoluteright.

Inorderfortheplaintiffstosucceedintheiractionstheymust,inmyopinion,havearightwhichthelawdeems worthy of protection: seeRestatement of theLawof Torts Second, 1965, s. 1, p.2. Whiletheplaintiffs donot haveanabsoluterightofsupport,Iconsiderthattheyhavearightnottobesubjectedtointerferencewiththe supportofthewaterundertheirrespectivelands,amountingtonegligenceornuisance.Infringementofthatright cangiverisetoacauseofactioninnuisanceornegligence.

228. Hence it was not an absolute defence that the interference was only with the right to support from subsurfacewater.TheCourtheldthattheplaintiffshadcausesofactioninnegligenceandnuisance.Therewas adutyofcareowedbythedefendantsbecausethedefendantsoughttohaveforeseentheriskofharmsuffered by theplaintiffs.Fornuisance,thequestionwas whetherthedefendants’conductwas reasonable,considering thefactthathehadaneighbour.

229.InTheMayor,CouncillorsAndCitizensofPerthvHalle(1911)13C.L.R.393,theHighCourtofAustralia

disapprovedofActonvBlundell.Theappellants,astatutoryauthority,constructedadraininapublicstreet.Asit waspoorlyconstructed,therewereholesinthedrain.Largequantitiesofsandandwaterfoundtheirwayintothe drainandwerecarriedaway from theadjoininglandthereby causingtheloss of support. Houses frontingthe street sufferedfrom cracks. Theappellants wereheldtobeliable.Actonv Blundell was distinguishedonthe groundthattheappellantswerenotadjoiningownersofthesoilofthestreet.Theappellantsderivedtheirpowers fromtheStatuteandtheirrightstothelandwereonlythoseaswereauthorizedbytheStatute.Theirpowerwas

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todrainthestreetsproperlyandnottodrainthesubsoilofsurroundinglocalities.GriffithsCJexpressedtheview thattheappellantswerenotprotectedbythedoctrineofChasemorevRichards7H.L.C.349andPopplewell v Hodkinsonwheretheworkconstitutedanuisancebyreasonofitsnegligentconstructionormaintenancebythe appellants.Wheretheappellantsexceededtheirpowers,theywereinnobetterpositionthanamerewrongdoer creatingapublic nuisanceinthestreet. However, O’ConnorJ, by way of dicta, restrictedActonv Blundell by holdingthatthelandownerhadarighttohavehislandsupportedbyundergroundwaterandwasentitledtoassert thatrightofsupport,whichwasoneofincidentsarisingoutofhisownership,againstthewholeworldexceptfor theadjoininglandowner.Hesaidhoweverthat‘eventhelatterisentitledtointerferewiththefullenjoymentofthe rightonlywhenthelawfuluseofhisownlandnecessarilyinvolvesthatinterference’.

230.NoneofthejustificationsforupholdingActonvBlundellis compelling. InJordeson, VaughanWilliams LJ supportedtherulinginActonvBlundellasheheldthatitwaspracticallyimpossibletopredictatwhatpointorat what distancethewithdrawalof theequalpressureof thewatermight causesubsidenceinthesoilpreviously affectedbywaterpressure.Howeverthisjustificationishardlyjustifiabletoday.Jordesonwas decidedin1899

andnearlya100yearshavesincepassed.AspointedoutinStatevMichelsPipelineConstruction,Inc(1974)

217N.W.2d339,quotedinPugliese,‘todayscientificknowledgeinthefieldofhydrologyhascertainlyadvanced

tothepointwhereacauseandeffectrelationshipcanbeestablishedbetweenatappingofundergroundwaterand thelevelofthewatertableintheareasothatliabilitycanbefairlyadjudicatedconsonantwithdueprocess.’I might add that modern engineering techniques have also advanced to the point where proper methods are availabletominimisetheriskofdamagetoadjacentpropertiesthroughdewatering.

231.ShouldIbewronginnotadoptingtheprinciplelaiddowninthelineofcasesfollowingActonvBlundelland

that indeedtheownerof land, inlaw, hadunlimitedright toabstract forhis ownuseordrainaway as much subterraneanwaterfromunderhislandashewishes,withoutanyregardastowhetherhisexerciseofthatright wasreasonableornot,andwhetheritwouldcausephysicaldamagetotheownerofadjacentlandthroughthe loss of support by that water, I would still have held the defendants liable because the defendants, in constructingthetrenchline,hadnoauthorityfromtheMOEtocausephysicaldamagetoneighbouringproperty by drainingaway thesubterraneanwater. Neitherwerethey theowners of thelandexercisingtheirproprietary rightasowners.Thus,theydidnotstrictlycomewithintheprincipleinActonvBlundellnortheextendedprinciple inChasemorevRichardsandPopplewellvHodkinsoninmyview.

Thethirdissue:Weretheactsofthedefendantsnegligent

232. Theexcavationwork was carriedout by thedefendants’workers includingDW6. Counselfortheplaintiff arguedthatthedefendantsoughttohavetakenprecautionswhenpumpingthewaterandsiltfromthetrench.The standardofcarerequiredofthedefendantswasthatofareasonablycompetentseweragecontractor.Theclassic

statementwasthatbyMcNairJinBolamvFrienHospitalManagement[1957]WLR582atpage586:‘Thetest

isthestandardoftheordinaryskilledmanexercisingandprofessingtohavethatspecialskill.Amanneednot

possessthehighestexpertskill;itiswellestablishedlawthatitissufficientifheexercisestheordinaryskillof

anordinarycompetentmanexercisingthatparticularart.’

233. Had the defendants shown reasonable care and skill expected of a reasonably competent sewerage

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contractor?Ididnotthinkso.

234.Anyreasonablycompetentcontractorinvolvedinsewerageworksshouldbeabletoforeseethenaturaland

probableconsequencesof(a)notproperlyconstructingthetimbershoring,whichallowedlossofsupportingsoil intothetrenchfromadjacentground,and(b)pumpingoutsubstantialquantitiesofwatertogetherwithsiltwithno precautionary measures taken against the deleterious effects of dewatering. Having seen the ratherpoorsoil conditionsintheareawherethetrenchingworksweretobecarriedout,andtheclosenessofthetrenchtothe premises,thedefendantsoughttohaveensuredthathisworkersconstructedtheshoringproperlyandthatproper and adequate precautions were taken to prevent damage to adjacent properties arising from loss of ground supportthroughsubsidence.

235.Thenecessityofpre­constructionsitesurveysandinsurancerequirementsshowedthatitwasinherentin

suchexcavationworkthatdamagemightbecausedtoneighbouringpremises.Itwasnotasifsuchdamagewas normally considered to be unlikely or remote. Hence, it was incumbent on the defendants to ensure that all appropriatemeasureswereputinplacetominimisethepossibilityofsoilsubsidence,whichcouldleadtocracks infloorsandstructuresofneighbouringpremises.Inthiscase,thatsubsidencedidcausetheseriouscracksin thepremises.Thecausallinktothedefendants’negligencewasclear.

236.Itwascommongroundthatnoprecautionsweretakentopreventorminimisetheeffectsofdewatering.One

commonmeasurethatcouldhavebeentakenwasrecharging,whichwasnotexpensive.AsdescribedbyPW4,

this methodinvolveddrillingholes toinsert perforatedpipes intotheground. Insteadof dischargingthewater away,itcouldbepumpedbackintothesurroundinggroundareathroughthesepipes.Byrecharging,thewater tableinthevicinity oftheexcavationwouldnotbeloweredunnecessarily.Ifsuchprecautions werenottaken, particularly whenthesoil conditionwas pooras inthis case, therewas obviously amuchgreaterrisk of soil subsidencecausingcrackstoaffectedstructures.Ifthedefendantschosetotakenoprecautionsandrunthis risk,whichclearlywasforeseeable,thentheymustbemadetobeartheconsequencesoftheirnegligenceinmy opinion.

237.Asstatedearlier,thelossofsoilfromthesideofthetrenchthroughseepagearosebecauseoftherather

poorly constructedtimbershoring. AlthoughI consideredthis tobeaminorcontributory factorforthecracks, nevertheless,thedefendantsmuststillbeheldliableforthenegligentlyconstructedtimbershoring.

238.Inthecircumstances,Ifoundthatthedefendantswerenegligentintheirexcavationastheyhadfailedto

takeadequatesteps toerect propertimbershoringandtotakeprecautionary measures against theeffects of dewatering.Thedefendantshadfailedintheirdutytotakereasonablecareincarryingouttheexcavation.

Resipsaloquitur

239.Counselfortheplaintiffreliedonthedoctrineofresipsaloquiturtoestablishthattherewasnegligenceon

thepart of thedefendants. This doctrineis but aruleof evidenceandnot aprincipleof law: Lloyde v West

MidlandsGasBoard[1971]2AllER1240,approvedinKellerPianoCo(Ltd)vManagementCorpStrataTitleNo

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1298[1995]1SLR355.Itwasclearthatthedoctrineonlyappliedwherethecauseofthedamagewasnotknown.

Insuchacase,wheretheoccurrencewas suchthatitwouldnothavehappenedwithoutnegligenceandwhat inflictedthedamagewasunderthesolemanagementandcontrolofthedefendant,itfollowedonbalancethatthe

defendantmusthavebeennegligent:ScottvLondonandStKatherineDocksCo(1865)3H.&C.596.Theprima

faciecaseofnegligenceagainstthedefendantwasthenestablishedandthedefendantwouldhavetorebutthe caseby showinghewas not negligent. Howeverwheretherewas evidenceshowinghowtheoccurrencetook

place,resipsaloquiturwasinappropriate.InBarkwayvSouthWalesTransportCo.,Ltd[1950]1AllE.R.392,

theCourtofAppealheldthatthedoctrinewasdependentontheabsenceofexplanation,andalthoughitwasthe

dutyofthedefendantstogiveanadequateexplanationofthecauseoftheaccident,however,ifthefactswere

sufficientlyknown,thequestionceasedtobeonewherethefactsspokeforthemselves,andthesolutionwasto

befoundbydeterminingwhether,onthefactsasestablished,negligencewastobeinferredornot.

240.Inthiscase,therewasevidencetoshowthatthecracksintheplaintiff’shousewerecausedbysubsidence,

andthesubsidencewasduetothecombinedeffectsofdewateringandlossofsoilthroughthegapsinthepoorly

constructedtrenchshoringbythedefendant.Thecourtwouldthenhavetodeterminewhetherthedefendantwas

negligentontheevidence,andIfoundhewasindeednegligent.Allthefactsoftheoccurrencewereknown.

Causeofactionfornuisance:LiabilityforNuisance

241.Counselfortheplaintifffurtherarguedthatthedefendantswereliablefornuisancebyitsexcavationonthe

land adjacent to the plaintiff so as to cause subsidence to the plaintiff’s premises. I have found that the defendantshadpumpedoutsubstantialquantitiesofwaterfromthetrenchtherebyloweringthewatertableinthe immediatevicinityofthepremises.Thewaterpumpedouthadincludedsiltsomeofwhichhadfounditswayinto thetrenchthroughthegapsinthepoorlyconstructedshoring.Thiscausedthesurroundinggroundincludingthe premisestosettle,andthatsettlementwasthecauseoftheextensivecrackingtothehouse.

242. Fortheclaim innuisancetosucceed, theplaintiff hadtoshowthat therewas unreasonableuseby the defendantofhislandtothedetrimentofhisneighbour.Indeterminingwhethertheuseoflandwasreasonable, thequestionwasnotsomuchwhetherthedefendanthadtakenreasonablecarewhenusinghisland.Rather,the focusisonwhethertheplaintiff’senjoymentofthelandhasbeenunreasonablyinterferedwithbearinginmindthe natureofthedefendant’sactivityandthekindofprecautionsthatcouldhavebeentaken.Allthecircumstances of the case must be considered. However, where there is physical damage to the neighbour, as opposed to intangibledamage,thebalanceusuallytipsintheplaintiff’sfavour.

243.Iftheinterferenceisunreasonablebyanystandard,thenthefactthatallthenecessarycarehadbeentaken

isnodefencetoanactioninnuisance.Negligenceonthepartofthedefendantisnotaprerequisitetoliabilityin nuisance.AsheldbyLordGoffinCambridgeWaterCo. Ltdv EasternCounties Leatherplc[1994] 2AC264, whereanuisancehasbeencreatedbyoneforwhoseactionsthedefendantisresponsible,‘itisstillthelawthat thefactthatthedefendanthadtakenallreasonablecarewillnotitselfexoneratehimfromliability,therelevant controlmechanismbeingfoundwithintheprincipleof reasonableuser’. Howeverliability inprivatenuisanceis still not a strict or absolute liability. If the damage was of a type which the defendant could not reasonably foresee,hewouldnotbeliable.Inthatcase,thedefendantswerenotliableforpollutionoftheundergroundwater

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supplycausedbyseepageintoitofchemicalaccidentallyspiltduringtheirleathertanningprocess,ontheground

thatseepagehadnotbeenforeseeable.

244.Thatdoesnotmeanthatnegligenceisneverrelevant.Wherethedefendanthasbeennegligentthismaybe

evidenceofunreasonableuser,sinceitisnotreasonabletoexpectadjoiningownerstoputupwithinterference that could be avoided by the exercise of reasonable care. Consider first the situation as set out inClerk &

Lindsellpara18­33:Ifthedefendantdeliberatelyorrecklesslyuseshislandinawaywhichheknowswillcause

harmtohisneighbour,andthatharmisanunreasonableinfringementofhisneighbour’sinterestinhisproperty and hence being an unreasonable user of his property, the defendant is liable for all the foreseeable consequences.Itisnodefencetosaythatthedefendanthastakenallpossiblestepstopreventhisactivityfrom

amountingtoanuisance:ReadvLyons&CoLtd[1947]AC156.Howeverwherethenuisanceisnotobviousbut

developsasaresultofthedefendant’slawfulactivitythatgoesawry,hewouldbeliableifhewasnegligentin that heought toforeseethelikelihoodof themishapanddamage. Insuchacase, liability innegligenceand nuisancecoincide.

245. Thekey is todeterminewhat constitutes reasonableuseof theland. Pumpingof waterdoes not perse constitute a nuisance. However where pumping of a large quantity of water especially when abstracted in a negligent manner thereby causing damage to the plaintiffs’ properties through subsidence, it constituted a nuisance.Anycompetentcontractorshouldhavetakentherequiredprecautionstominimisethepossibilityofsoil subsidenceparticularlyinpoorsoilconditions.

246.Theminimumthatthedefendantsoughttohavedonewastorechargethewaterthatwaspumpedfromthe

groundintoperforatedpipessunkintotheadjacentgroundinordertoreplenishthewaterthathadbeenpumped up. I accepted that the alternative precautionary measures of pipe­jacking or pressure cement grouting were impracticalorunsuitableforthekindofworkinquestion.Howeverthedefendantsdidnotevenattempttotake any precautions eventhoughthey knewthesoil conditioninthat areawas poor. Pumpinglargequantities of waterinsuchanegligentmannerwouldconstituteanunreasonableuserofthelandinrelationtotheneighbours. This went beyond that which the plaintiff could reasonably expect to tolerate. There was no doubt that the damageintheformofsubsidencewasthetypeofdamagethatwasreasonablyforeseeablebythedefendants whentheypumpedoutlargequantitiesofwaterwithouttakinganyprecautionarymeasures.Therewasnodoubt in my mind that the defendants should have forseen that uneven settlement of building structures due to subsidencewouldcausecracks.Itwasnotsurprisingifwaterseepedintotheroomwhenitrainedbecauseofthe cracksatgroundlevelbetweenthewallsandthefloorsandifsomeofthedoorscouldnotbeproperlycloseddue tomisalignment arisingfromthesettlement of theground. Clearly, therewouldbemuchinconveniencetothe

plaintiffandotheroccupantsofNo72.Suchdamageinmyopinionwereentirelyforseeablebyanyreasonably

competentcontractor.

Conclusion

247.Sincebothnegligenceandnuisancehadbeenprovedbytheplaintiff,Iawardedinterlocutoryjudgmentfor

theplaintiffwithdamagestobeassessedandcoststobetaxedifnotagreed.

SGD:CHANSENGONN

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