Default Judgments and Summary Judgments in Singapore
If you sue or are sued in Singapore, the civil litigation process may be expedited under certain circumstances giving rise to a judgment in default (or default judgment) or summary judgment. That being said, it should also be noted that a default judgment or summary judgment may be set aside.
There are two scenarios that may give rise to a default judgment:
- When the defendant (i.e. the party being sued) fails to file a notice of intention to contest or not contest (previously known as “entering appearance”); or
- When the defendant fails to file his defence within the stipulated time for doing do so.
A default judgment may be entered against a defendant if he fails to file and serve a notice of intention to contest or not contest within the stipulated time. The time for the defendant to file and serve the notice is within 14 days after the service of the statement of claim (if the defendant was served in Singapore) or within 21 days after the service of the statement of claim (if the defendant was served outside Singapore).
A judgment in default of defence may also be entered against a defendant who fails to serve a defence on the claimant (i.e. the party bringing the suit – previously known as the “plaintiff”) within the stipulated time.
The time for service of the defence is within 21 days after the service of the statement of claim (if the defendant was served in Singapore) or within 5 weeks after the service of the statement of claim (if the defendant was served outside Singapore).
Effect of a default judgment
If the claimant succeeds in the application for default judgment, the court will ordinarily grant the relief sought by the claimant. However, if there are two or more defendants, one defendant’s default will not affect the other defendant(s).
For example, if you, as the claimant, bring a claim for immovable property (e.g. a house) against two defendants, you cannot possess the property even if you obtain default judgment against one of the defendants. Additionally, the defendant who defaulted may later apply to set aside the judgment.
What should you do if you are being sued?
Generally, defendants should file and serve a notice of intention to contest or not contest even if the claimant’s claim is unmeritorious. Otherwise, the law will treat the defendant’s failure to file such a notice as an admission to all the allegations in the claimant’s statement of claim. That said, there is an exception provided for minors and persons lacking capacity.
What can you do if a default judgment has been entered against you?
If default judgment has been entered against a defendant, the defendant may apply to have it set aside.
If there were procedural defects in the grant of the default judgment, the court will ordinarily set aside the judgment, unless the claimant can show that the defendant was bound to lose.
If a defendant files a notice of intention to contest and serves a defence, but the defendant has no real defence to the claim (or any part of it), the claimant may apply for summary judgment against the defendant.
Such an application must be submitted within 28 days after the date of service of the defence, unless the court gives permission for a later submission date.
Requirement of “no real defence”
In order to obtain an order for summary judgment, the claimant has to show that the defendant has no defence. In order to resist the application for summary judgment, the defendant must show that there are issues or questions that ought to be tried.
The Singapore courts have found that a defendant has no defence in the following instances (non-exhaustive):
- The defendant’s case is inconsistent with documentary evidence; and
- The defendant’s case is inherently improbable or incredible.
Effect of a summary judgment
The court may make the following orders upon an application for summary judgment:
- Dismiss the application;
- Enter judgment (where the defendant has no real defence);
- Enter judgment with stay of proceedings (where the defendant has no real defence but raises a plausible counterclaim);
- Grant unconditional leave to defend (where there are issues or questions to be tried); or
- Grant conditional leave to defend (where the court is very nearly prepared to give judgment for the claimant). With this order, the defendant has to deposit an amount into court sufficient to satisfy the claimant’s claim before the defendant will be allowed to argue his case.
A lawyer will be able to advise you on questions relating to default judgment or summary judgment, as well as those relating to setting-aside procedure.
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