Singapore’s WongPartnership faces challenge over bills charged to ex-hotel manager

Singaporean firm WongPartnership has won a legal challenge over the bills it charged to a local hotel’s former general manager.

The firm has been in a long-running battle to recoup the fees it charged to the Mitre Hotel and its former general manager Chiam Heng Hsien after representing them in a property battle between 2006 and 2008.

WongPartnership charged Mitre S$385,000 for the work, of which almost S$175,000 was unpaid in 2010 when the firm went to court to obtain settlement of the outstanding bills.

However Chiam has challenged the bills, lodging two complaints with the Law Society of Singapore – both of which were dismissed – before applying to the Singapore High Court in November 2012 for review of the costs.

He alleged that his lawyers, WongPartnership partners Andre Francis Maniam and Koh Swee Yen, had acted contrary to his instructions and they had been negligent in their advice and the manner in which they had conducted the litigation.

In a court hearing last year, Chiam argued that the bills were “for useless work” and “the service provided were contrary to his explicit instructions”.

Following a September 2013 hearing, Justice Lee Seiu Kin dismissed Mitre’s application. In his judgment, handed down in November and published yesterday (25 March), Lee said the bill was “an appropriate sum”.

The judge added that the litigation the firm had conducted for Mitre and Chiam was “fairly voluminous in terms of documentation and the issues involved difficult points of law with facts going back many decades” and that therefore the sums charged were appropriate.

Chiam and Mitre have filed an application to seek leave to appeal against the decision, which will be heard on 2 April.

Chiam has represented himself before the High Court, while Maniam and Koh represented WongPartnership.

The firm declined to comment on the case.