Default Judgments and Summary Judgments in Singapore

Last updated on April 22, 2022

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.

Default Judgments

There are two scenarios that may give rise to a default judgment:

  1. 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
  2. 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 there were no procedural defects in the grant of the default judgment, the defendant will need to show that there are arguable or triable issues for the court to set aside the default judgment.

Summary Judgment

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.

Before Making a Claim
  1. Drafting an Enforceable Settlement Agreement in Singapore
  2. Differences between Criminal Law and Civil Law
  3. Should You Sue? 8 Things to Think About Before Suing
  4. How to Write a Cease and Desist Letter in Singapore
  5. Limitation Periods: What's the Deadline for Suing in Singapore?
  6. What to Do If Someone Sues Your Singapore Business
  7. Arbitration and Mediation: When They Can be Useful for Business Disputes
  8. Can I Sue a Foreigner in Singapore?
  9. Mediation in Singapore
  10. Arbitration: When and How to Arbitrate Business Disputes in Singapore
  11. 6 Things You Need to Know about Third-Party Funding in International Arbitration
  12. Using Neutral Evaluation to Resolve Civil Disputes in Singapore
Making a Claim - The Beginning of a Dispute
  1. What is a Breach of Confidence and How to Prove It
  2. How to File an Originating Claim in a Singapore Lawsuit
  3. How to Bring a Class-Action Lawsuit in Singapore
  4. Letters of Demand and Their Usages in Singapore
  5. Law on Writ of Summons in Singapore
  6. Received a "Without Prejudice" Letter? Here’s What It Means
  7. What if I Cannot Find the Party I Want to Sue?
  8. Making a Claim in the Small Claims Tribunals in Singapore
  9. First Meeting With Your Business Dispute Lawyer: What to Expect
  10. Negotiating a Settlement in a Business Dispute
  11. Security of Payment Act: Claiming Progress Payments for Construction Work Done
  12. Engaging a Queen’s Counsel in Singapore
The Litigation Process
  1. Can You Withdraw Your Court Case in Singapore?
  2. Civil Litigation: How to Sue in Singapore (Step-by-Step Guide)
  3. Originating Application: What It Is and How to File in Singapore
  4. Notice of Intention to Contest or Not Contest: What is It?
  5. Affidavits in Singapore: What Are They & How to Prepare One
  6. Default Judgments and Summary Judgments in Singapore
Matters relating to Witnesses and Evidence
  1. Can My Minor Child be Subpoenaed to be a Court Witness?
  2. Admissibility of Evidence in the Singapore Courts
  3. Subpoenaed to be a Court Witness in Singapore: What You Need to Do
  4. Who is an Expert Witness and How to Use Expert Evidence in Singapore
  5. Destroying and Tampering With Evidence in Singapore
  6. Legal DNA Test: What is It For, How It’s Conducted, Cost & More
Remedies Available for Civil Litigation
  1. Types of Injunctions in Singapore
  2. Specific Performance: Obtaining this Equitable Remedy in Singapore
  3. Judicial Review in Singapore: What is It and How to Apply
After the Lawsuit
  1. After the Lawsuit: Who Has to Pay Whom, and How Much?
  2. Enforcement of Court Judgments and Orders in Singapore
  3. How to Get an Order for Seizure and Sale to Enforce a Judgment