Authenticity Of Internal Records

Published date20 September 2022
Subject MatterLitigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Arbitration & Dispute Resolution, Trials & Appeals & Compensation
Law FirmChancery Law Corporation
AuthorMr Tian Luh Tan and Yap Xuan Wei

In RMD Kwikform Singapore Pte Ltd v Ehub Pte Ltd [2022] SGHC 129, the High Court had the opportunity to address, among others, the authenticity of internal records which the plaintiff relied on to quantify its claims.

Facts. The plaintiff claimed for unpaid sums allegedly owed by the defendant in relation to equipment that the plaintiff hired out to the defendant for use in five construction projects (at [1]).

The plaintiff relied on its own internal records to quantify its claims, which were documentary records extracted from "Axapta", a computer software that the plaintiff used to help keep track of equipment on hire and fees payable (at [10]). These documents or records consisted of hire return notes, delivery notes, hire tax invoices, tax invoices, credit notes, damage documents, and project movement and balances ("Axapta Records").

As part of its defence, the defendant challenged the authenticity of the Axapta Records (at [11]). The defendant had filed a notice of non-admission pursuant to O 27 r 4(2) of the Rules of Court (2014 Rev Ed) with regard to the authenticity of almost all of the Axapta Records (more than 6,500 documents) that had been disclosed in the plaintiff's List of Documents.

The defendant argued that the plaintiff failed to discharge its burden of proving the authenticity of the Axapta Records, and therefore, the Axapta Records are inadmissible, with the consequence that the plaintiff's claims (which rely heavily on the Axapta Records for quantification and proof) should not be allowed.

Test where authenticity is disputed. The High Court referred to the Court of Appeal's decision in CIMB Bank Bhd v World Fuel Services (Singapore) Pte Ltd and another appeal [2021] 1 SLR 1217 ("CIMB") at [54] for the steps that a party needs to take to prove the authenticity of disputed documents (at [18]). The High Court then set out the following framework (at [19]):

"... the test for proving the authenticity of a document is twofold. The first step to proving authenticity is to adduce the original document for the inspection of the court, or if one of the exceptions under the Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1997 Rev Ed) ("EA") applies, secondary evidence of the disputed document (eg, a copy of the document). The second step is to adduce evidence that the document is what it "purports to be"."

Step 1. As there is no strict requirement that a party must produce the original document to prove its authenticity, the High Court held that the more pertinent question was whether any of the exceptions in the EA...

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