Suit over $1.4m limo takes legal costs over $2m

The boss of Fragrance Hotel who raised a stink over a $1.4 million Rolls-Royce he bought faces the prospect of having to stomach more than $2 million in legal costs.

Billionaire James Koh Wee Meng - the man behind the Fragrance chain of budget hotels - has up to June 26 to file an appeal against a court judgment in favour of Rolls-Royce agent Trans Eurokars.

Mr Koh had sued Trans Eurokars over a Rolls-Royce Phantom limousine he bought in 2008, which he said made loud noises and vibrated when making three-point turns.

Last month, the High Court dismissed the hotelier's claims with costs - meaning he has to pay the legal fees of the party he sued.

The Straits Times understands Trans Eurokars' legal fees amounted to around $1.2 million, and that Mr Koh's own legal fees would be equal to, or higher than, that. The fees include the cost of automotive experts whom both sides hired.

Trans Eurokars, owned by entrepreneur Karsono Kwee, 66, was represented by senior counsel Tan Chee Meng of WongPartnership, while Mr Koh, 51, was represented by senior counsel Davinder Singh of Drew & Napier.

The case was presided over by Justice Judith Prakash, who said in her judgment that even if she had found the car to be defective, she would have assessed damages claimable by Mr Koh to be only $352,150.

She reasoned that this was the difference between the $1,407,150 purchase price of the Phantom and the $1,055,000 offered by Trans Eurokars to buy back the car during the early stages of the dispute.

The judge also had choice words for both sides.

On the one hand, she said Mr Koh "cannot really expect the experience of driving in the Rolls to be the same as flying on a cloud, which is the impression some may get from the term 'waftability' made up many years ago to describe the experience of travelling in a Rolls-Royce".

But on the other, she added: "it may be wise for Rolls-Royce to moderate its advertising puffery".

This article was first published on June 14, 2014.
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