Singapore: Punitive Damages In Contract And Tort - The Position In Singapore (Chinese)

Last Updated: 3 October 2017
Article by Ik Wei Chong

PH Hydraulics & Engineering Pte Ltd v Airtrust (Hong Kong) Ltd 和另一起上诉 [2017] SGCA 26。 近期一起新加坡的案件中,上诉法庭审查了是否可以对纯合同违约行为判处惩罚性损害赔偿。

背景

PH Hydraulics & Engineering Pte Ltd(简称"PH")设计、制造并供应海上重型机械。2007年9月,Airtrust (Hong Kong) Ltd(简称"AirTrust")与PH签订一份协议,PH将为其设计并提供一个300吨卷轴驱动装置(简称"RDU"),用于在澳大利亚巴斯海峡铺设海底脐带电缆。

Airtrust于2008年4月提取RDU。在其一项业务操作中,RDU发生了灾难性故障,并且必须进行修复。在维修过程中,RDU被发现在设计和制造方面存在一些问题。Airtrust指称,PH不仅提供了质量不合格且不适合其用途的器械,而且在获取RDU相关认证的方式上存在欺诈。

法院判定如下

法院法官同意Airtrust的指控,即PH违反了合同,未能交付具有适销质量且满足其用途的RDU(没有针对该等发现提出上诉)。

法官还发现,PH被认定为故意以不诚实的方式获得相关认证。

关于损害赔偿问题,法官指出,最高法院曾在 MFM Restaurants Pte Ltd v Fish & Co Restaurants [2011] 1 SLR 150一案的判决中表示可以在纯合同条件下判定惩罚性损害赔偿。法官认为,事实上,PH以"非常荒谬和应受谴责"的方式采取行动,以证明实施惩罚性赔偿是合理的(PH在测试中忽略某些周长和如何仅获得RDU的部分而非完整认证)。

PH就法官对欺诈的发现以及惩罚性损害赔偿的判决提出上诉。

上诉

上诉法庭审查了这些证据,不同意法官认为PH存在欺诈行为的观点。上诉法庭认为PH最多是重大过失,但其行为没有任何欺诈的因素。

即便如此,上诉法庭进一步考虑即使没有发现欺诈,是否可以因合同违约而作出惩罚性损害赔偿的判决。如果可以,在什么情况下可以判定惩罚性损害赔偿。

首先,作为一个法律问题,惩罚性赔偿适用于侵权行为责任而不是合同责任。只有同时存在侵权责任和合同责任的情况下,法院才会判定惩罚性赔偿(如果相关情况得以证明这一点)。本案中,上诉法庭须考虑法院是否仍然可以在不存在侵权行为索赔的情况下裁定惩罚性损害赔偿。

在得出结论之前,上诉法庭考虑了双方的绝大多数论据,并参考了诸如英国、澳大利亚和新西兰以及加拿大等法域的普通法立场,这些国家竭力反对就纯合同违约行为判定惩罚性赔偿。反对的理由概括如下:

反对判定惩罚性赔偿的论据

  1. 合约和侵权行为之间存在固有的区别。合约义务由相关各方自愿承担,而侵权责任是作为一种政策性的考虑并且一般针对个人的法律责任。对于合同而言,协议的要素意味着,法院在双方已经达成一致的交易方面(包括违约的制裁和处罚)应进行最小的干预,并且应谨慎地用法院自身的理解去补充何为公平或公正。相比之下,侵权法规定了完全陌生的人之间的规范行为标准(例如,在过失侵权中,通过就近原则对涉事人士施加注意义务)。即使如此,对侵权行为实行惩罚性赔偿只是个别案例而非常见案例——只有某些特定情况才能适用惩罚性赔偿的裁定。
  2. 法院将一些具有惩罚或威慑作用的补救措施作为对传统补偿性赔偿判决的替代或补充。这些措施包括:
    • "Wrotham Park 赔偿" –允许被告违反限制性约定或其他法律限制,作为赔偿原告可以合理索赔的款项金额;
    • 利润补偿 – 被告因违约而产生的利益或收益;或
    • 精神损害赔偿 – 尤其是如果合同本身的目的是确保当事人心态平和或免受压力。
  3. 何为允许判决惩罚性损害赔偿的"不能容忍"的违约行为的评判标准是非常不确定的,并且会损害商业稳定性。商业活动毕竟是以自身或既得利益为主要考虑因素。

加拿大独立最高法院同意惩罚性赔偿

加拿大最高法院在 Whiten v Pilot Insurance Company (2002) 209 DLR (4th) 257 ("Whiten")一案中就纯合同条款内容判定惩罚性损害赔偿。该案中,加拿大最高法院发现,保险公司采用"石墙战术"以否认房屋遭受火灾毁坏的保单持有人的正当要求。最高法院主张除30万加元补偿性赔偿金以外,另外给予100万加元的惩罚性赔偿。新加坡最高法院审核了Whiten案的判决,并得出结论认为,加拿大法院提出的原则没有说服力,并且进一步指出,该决定受到一些极具说服力的批评。

结论

新加坡(以及除加拿大以外的其他普通法法域)现行法律规定的惩罚性损害赔偿金一般不会在不同时具备侵权责任的情况下而只依据纯合同条款进行判定。然而,新加坡最高法院并没有排除某个真正特殊的案例可能会说服其采纳惩罚性损害赔偿的可能,但该案的情况并非如此。

也就是说,发现自己面临合同对方提出的应受谴责的行为时,在合理情形下,他们仍有可能被法院作出采取其他赔偿措施的判决 – 即"Wrotham Park 赔偿"、利润补偿、精神损害赔偿,和/或损害赔偿案件相关的诉讼费用。

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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