Elderly parents didn't authorise lawyers to act

AN ELDERLY couple who sued their two daughters in a tussle over their Housing Board flat never signed the documents allowing lawyers to act on their behalf.

Instead the only signature belonged to one of their two sons.

This "startling" fact, which emerged only on the last day of the trial, helped convince Justice Quentin Loh that the sons were the ones who instigated the court case to remove their sisters as joint owners of the $700,000 five-room flat in Clementi.

His judgment grounds, which were released yesterday in the wake of an appeal filed by the mother, explained why he threw out the suit by 92-year-old Eileen Chia, the widow of late Singapore scouting pioneer Dennis Goh, last October.

"Mercifully he passed away... and did not have to witness the proverbial washing of his family's dirty linen in public."

Mr Goh, who was a party in the suit but died in March last year aged 94, was also a well-known and respected Anglo-Chinese School teacher. After his death, the wheelchair-bound Madam Chia continued to pursue the suit to have their daughters Yvonne, 63, and Yvette, 53, removed as joint owners.

She claimed they exploited the couple's old age, coercing and harassing them into adding their names to the tenancy agreement in 2010.

But during the 17-day trial, the judge found that the late Mr Goh had announced in December 2009 that he wanted his girls "to have a home when they came back to Singapore; he did not want them sleeping on park benches or under Anderson Bridge when he was gone".

Both sisters, who live in England, also argued that their siblings Evan, 65, and Eric, 69, along with his wife Penelope Wee, were the ones who hatched the suit. If Madam Chia succeeded, the brothers would have a share in the flat if their mother died. But in a joint tenancy, the share goes to the other owners when a co-owner dies.

On Sept 10, the second-last day of the trial, Justice Loh ordered Madam Chia's lawyers from Rodyk & Davidson to produce the documents authorising them to act for the elderly couple.

All that was produced in court the following day was only one warrant signed by Eric.

Lawyers whom The Straits Times spoke to said it was very unusual for plaintiffs not to have signed warrants to appoint the counsel to act for them. Justice Loh said this was "weighty evidence of Eric's links to the present proceedings". "This is a dreadful family dispute which should not have reached the courts for resolution," he said, noting how the parties went for two separate mediation sessions but failed to come to an agreement.

Lawyers Alfred Dodwell and Terence Tan defending the sisters have put Evan, Eric and Penelope on notice that they will be seeking costs on the case against them instead of Madam Chia at a hearing fixed for later this month.

This will allow the judge to make them pay the sisters' legal bills, instead of Madam Chia, should he choose.

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