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Apex court dismisses Singaporean woman's 'quest for revenge'

Amir Hussain
·Senior Reporter
·3-min read
Singapore's Supreme Court (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)
Singapore's Supreme Court (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

SINGAPORE — A Singaporean woman's bid to sue a medical company and its chief executive was thrown out by the Court of Appeal on Wednesday (7 April), with the court noting that her action was "but a single pitstop" in her "quest for revenge".

Serene Tiong was in the news last year after colorectal surgeon Dr Julian Ong Kian Peng won a defamation suit against her over statements she made regarding his alleged misconduct towards women. 

Tiong had accused Dr Ong and Dr Chan Herng Nieng, with whom she had an affair, of colluding to take sexual advantage of vulnerable women patients.

The Singapore Medical Council is investigating her claims.

On Wednesday, Tiong's appeal for permission to sue HC Surgical Specialists (HCSS) and its chief executive Dr Heah Sieu Min in relation to HCSS' acquisition of an additional 19 per cent stake in Dr Ong's firm was described by Apex Court judge Andrew Phang as "wholly unmeritorious".

Justice Phang said the court action was "founded on Ms Tiong’s bare and unsubstantiated assertions that Dr Heah had breached his duty to act honestly and with reasonable diligence in connection with the 19 per cent acquisition."

Tiong was unable to show that the company has suffered or will suffer any real loss in connection with Dr Heah’s alleged breaches of duty, he said.

Tiong bought the minimum traded lot of 100 shares in HCSS for $44 a day before its annual general meeting in September 2019 in order to attend the meeting and convey her concerns about its 19 per cent acquisition in Dr Ong's company.

Said Justice Phang, "The central motif in (the appeal) and the proceedings below is revenge. Ms Tiong has no honest or reasonable belief that the company has a claim which ought to be brought. She has no interest in the commercial aspects of the company or the 19 per cent acquisition and had only taken an interest in the company after it had announced its plans to acquire JOES (Julian Ong Endoscopy & Surgery) on 3 September 2019 – a move which would benefit Dr Ong."

He added that Tiong's actions "are only explicable when one views them in the context of her unfortunate history of conflict with Dr Ong and Dr Chan which began when she discovered various offending WhatsApp messages on Dr Chan’s phone."

The judge described Tiong's "collateral purpose" as a "flagrant abuse" of the law. 

Noting that the appropriate forum for her to air her grievances is the Singapore Medical Council, he added, "We recognise that Ms Tiong has suffered deep emotional scars from her interactions with the two doctors, but legal relief must come via the correct route." 

Tiong was ordered to pay costs of $15,000 to HCSS and $30,000 to Dr Heah.

In a statement issued by HCSS after the verdict, Dr Heah said, "The Board and I have always acted to serve in the Company’s best interests. The Court of Appeal’s decision today not only vindicated the Board and my actions, but reinforces our commitment to serve."

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