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 The Highland Towers Judgment -
 Civil Suit No. S5-21-174-1996

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CIVIL SUIT NO: S5 - 21 -174 - 1996


Steven Phoa Cheng Loon & 72 Ors.

1 Highland Properties Sdn Bhd
2 Wong Tin Sang (t/a Konsortium Jurubina Perunding)
3 Wong Yuen Kean (t/a Waja Perunding)
4 Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya
5 Arab - Malaysian Finance Bhd
6 Tropic Development Sdn Bhd
7 Metrolux Sdn Bhd
8 MBf Property Services Sdn Bhd
9 Kerajaan Negeri Selangor
10 Pengarah Jabatan Tanah & Galian Negeri Selangor



Highland Towers, as is collectively known, consist of three blocks 12 story high apartments named simply as Block 1, 2, and 3 respectively. It was constructed sometime between 1975 and 1978 and the residents who dwelled therein were middle income earners. Directly behind the 3 blocks was a rather steep hill with a stream flowing west, if it was allowed to follow its natural course. The attraction of this place was the natural surroundings with an extensive view of the city of Kuala Lumpur.

On Saturday, the 11.12.1993, at about 1.30 p.m., after 10 days of continuos rainfall, Block 1 collapsed. When rescue operation was called off after days of searching, 48 people were recorded dead. The nation declared this incident as a - national tragedy.

Immediately after the collapse of Block 1 the residents of Block 2 & 3 were prevented from entering their apartments by the local authority having jurisdiction of the area, the Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya (MPAJ), for fear of the instability of these 2 buildings. A couple of days later, these occupants were allowed in, in restricted number, but only to collect their personal valuables. At that time, even with the presence of the security forces, the apartments were looted. With the eventual passing of time especially when security was reduced and subsequently withdrawn altogether vandalism became more intense. By 1998, when this Court visited the site, every apartment in Block 2 & 3 was completely stripped of contents, including fittings leaving only the naked structure.

MPAJ had issued statutory notice to the purchasers/owners of the apartments of Block 2 & 3 to demolish these two buildings. This was refused leading to the affected purchasers/owners obtaining from the High Court at Shah Alam an Order to set aside this notice. To date Block 2 & 3 remain standing but unoccupied for fear of instability.

Some 3 years after the Highland Towers tragedy the purchasers /owners of Block 2 & 3 issued a Writ against 10 defendants. This is the case against them.

The defendants

The 10 defendants are as follows:

The 1st defendant was the developer of the 3 apartment blocks in Highland Towers and is still the registered owner of the 3 pieces of land - Lot 494, 495, & 653 in the Mukim of Hulu Klang, District of Gombak, State of Selangor, on which the buildings stood. For purposes of demarcation, I shall refer to this entire land as the Highland Towers Site.

The 2nd defendant was the purported architect of Highland Towers.

The 3rd defendant, a brother of the 2nd defendant, was the engineer for Highland Towers.

The 4th defendant is and was the local authority at the material time who had jurisdiction over the Highland Towers Site, the Arab Malaysian Land and the surrounding areas.

The 5th defendant is and was, at the material time, the registered owner of 50 lots of bungalow land directly at the rear of Highland Towers. I shall collectively refer to these lots as the Arab Malaysian Land.

The 6th defendant (Tropic) is a company that carried out clearing works on the Arab Malaysian Land in late 1978 and early 1979.

The 7th defendant is the registered owner of a large piece of land (Metrolux Land) which is situated on top of a ridge, commonly known as Bukit Antarabangsa. This land is located just above the Arab Malaysian Land and at the material time was under development.

The 8th defendant is and, at all material times, the provider of management services to the 7th defendant to develop the Metrolux Land into a housing estate.

The 9th defendant is the State Government Selangor.

The 10th defendant is the Director of Lands & Mines of the Selangor state.

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