IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE
HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
ACTION NO. 8721 OF 1996
Coram: Hon. Madam Justice Yuen in Chambers
Date of hearing : 2 March 1998
Date of delivery : 2 March 1998
D E C I S I O N
1. This is an appeal from an order of a master ordering the 1st to 7th Defendants (“the Defendants”) to file and serve a further andbetter List of Documents to be verified by affirmation, with specific reference as to each category of documents specified thereunder.
2. On appeal before me, the parties have helpfully confined their dispute to 4 items in the Master’s Order, viz. items (8), (9), (11)and (12).
3. Mr Mak for the Plaintiffs (Respondents) does not present his case on the basis of Order 24 rule 7, but on Order 24 rule 3. Note 24/3/5provides that an order may be made for a further and better list of documents where it appears (a) from the list itself, (b) fromthe documents referred to in it, or (c) from admissions made either in the pleadings of the party making discovery or otherwise,that the party making discovery has or has had other relevant documents in his possession, custody or power.
4. In relation to items (8) and (9), Mr. Poon concedes he should make discovery of notices to the Companies Registry in relation tothe appointment of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants and Kwok Lo Sum as directors or secretary of the 6th Defendant, and in relationto the appointment of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Defendants as directors or secretary of the 7th Defendant.
5. That being the case, I cannot see how he can resist making discovery of the relevant minutes of meetings relating to the appointments,since the notices to the Companies Registry would necessarily have reference to the dates of appointment of those officers, and theywould have been appointed pursuant to meetings which would have to be minuted. The relevance of these documents is evident from thedisputes on the pleadings as to the periods of appointment to those offices: see paragraphs 14 & 15 of the Statement of Claimand paragraphs 26-31 of the Defence.
6. The correspondence is however another matter. There may or may not have been any such correspondence; it is not suggested that ithas been referred to in the original list, or any documents therein, or been admitted in the Defence, and it is therefore prematureat this stage to order a further and better list to include this correspondence.
7. In relation to items (11) and (12), these concern brands of Chinese medicines that the 8th Defendant had previously dealt in as soledistributor. In their Defence, the Defendants had admitted that the 8th Defendant had been distributor of “various” Chinese medicines(paragraph 37), and has asserted that the 6th Defendant began to carry on the business of selling and distributing Chinese medicinesin 1992, which included two types of Chinese medicines previously sold by the 8th Defendant (paragraph 51). As far as the 5th Defendantis concerned, it is pleaded that it carries on business as a retailer of Chinese medicines distributed by the 6th Defendant.
8. In my judgment, it is premature for the Plaintiffs now to ask for discovery of documents relating to the brands they say the 8thDefendant had previously distributed, without knowing what specifically is the case of the Defendants relating to each of the brands.The pleadings can be better particularised by both sides, so as to better define and confine the scope of dispute in relation tothe particular brands of Chinese medicines. When that is done, the Plaintiffs would have a better idea as to which medicines theDefendants admit they are involved with, and then a further and better list may be sought if appropriate.
9. Accordingly I would set aside the order of the Master in relation to items (11) and (12), and for items (8) and (9), I would varythe Master’s order to read as follows:
(Following argument on costs)
10. I would order the costs before the Master to be paid by the Defendants in any event with certificate for counsel, but that the costsof today to follow the event. Since the Defendants have substantially succeeded today, I would order that the costs be paid by thePlaintiffs in any event.
Judge of the Court of First Instance
Mr Tony Poon (instructed by Lau Wong & Chan) for 1st to 7th Defendants
Mr Andrew Mak (instructed by Howell & Co) for Plaintiffs