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  • Nov 27, 2014
  • Updated: 6:39pm
NewsHong Kong

Judge decries needless mud-slinging in fight for HK$1.2b fortune

Mud-slinging between siblings over father's HK$1.2 billion fortune draws rebuke in court

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 March, 2013, 4:53am

Hostile accusations bordering on mud-slinging are "wholly unwarranted" in any legal fight over administration of a fortune left by forebears, a High Court judge has said.

Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor sought to remind litigants and lawyers not to let their hostility spill over into their evidence, confusing the real issues.

"[It] is not uncommon, in particular in hotly contested applications … for the parties to file dramatically opposed evidence," Poon wrote in a judgment handed down yesterday.

"Occasionally the parties allow their hostility to spill over into the evidence, which is emotionally charged, bordering on mud-slinging for pure prejudice. That is wholly unwarranted. Emotional language only blurs the parties' focus."

Poon was reacting to antagonistic evidence filed by two children of late businessman Loo Che-chin who were at odds over the administration of their father's HK$1.2 billion legacy. Daughter Janet wanted her brother, Clive, removed as executor of their father's estate.

According to court documents, Loo, who died on July 24, 2010, named in his will his five children and a son-in-law as beneficiaries, each entitled to assets to the tune of HK$200 million. He named Clive as one of two executors of his estate, the other being their mother, who has since died.

The estate consists of a flat and a car park space on Broom Road, Happy Valley, significant shareholdings in four blue-chip stocks and bank deposits.

According to the judgment, the children had divided themselves into two warring camps, apparently with the three sons on one side and the two daughters and son-in-law on the other. Mediation efforts failed.

Janet Loo applied to the courts seeking that two public certified accountants replace Clive as estate administrator on the grounds that hostility between the two made the administration difficult.

Poon ordered that Clive be replaced. He noted a complete breakdown of relationships and mutual distrust between the camps. "[Because] of the mutual hostility, there was no effective communication between Clive as executor and Janet and her supporters as beneficiaries," he wrote. "This certainly would render the effective administration of the estate most difficult."

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ianson
Judges discourage bickering because (1) it takes longer to get the evidence out; (2) it makes their job harder because the basic bits of evidence they need to decide the case are buried a bit deeper in what has been said. So they naturally want to discourage it. But does that serve the interest of getting at the truth? Witnesses are not lawyers and not interested in the niceties of the fact extraction and issue resolution process. What is important for them is to get the truth out. If that truth is bound up in a mire of antagonism, the judge should hear it and the witness should not be unduly restrained. It is the judge's function, after all, to mine the truth from all of the evidence, not simply to be presented with the whole thing tied up nicely in a bow ready for judgment writing.

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