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 enter appearance or fails to file his defence within the respective stipulated time to do so.
A default judgment may be entered against a defendant if he fails to enter an appearance within the stipulated time. The time for the defendant to enter an appearance is 8 days after the service of the writ (if the defendant was served in Singapore) or 21 days after the service of the writ (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 plaintiff (i.e. the party bringing the suit) within the stipulated time. The time for service of the defence is 14 days after the time limited for appearing or after the statement of claim is served, whichever is later.
Effect of a default judgment
If the plaintiff succeeds in the application for default judgment, the court will ordinarily grant the relief sought by the plaintiff. 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 plaintiff, 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 enter appearance even if the plaintiff’s claim is unmeritorious. Otherwise, the law will treat the defendant’s failure to enter appearance as an admission to all the allegations in the plaintiff’s statement of claim, although 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 plaintiff can show that the defendant was bound to lose.
If a defendant enters an appearance and serves a defence, but the defendant has no real defence to the claim, the plaintiff may apply for summary judgment against the defendant. Such an application must be submitted within 28 days after the close of pleadings. Pleadings are deemed closed 14 days after the service of reply or the defence to the counterclaim. If neither of the above are served, pleadings are deemed closed 14 days after the defence is served.
Requirement of “no real defence”
In order to obtain an order for summary judgment, the plaintiff 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 which ought to be tried. A defendant may show cause to resist the application for summary judgment.
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 court is very nearly prepared to give judgment for the plaintiff). With this order, the defendant has to deposit an amount into court sufficient to satisfy the plaintiff’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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