Can You Withdraw Your Court Case in Singapore?
If you have commenced a civil court case in Singapore but you change your mind and want to withdraw it, there is a procedure for doing so and certain rules to be observed. This article will briefly set out how to do so and the circumstances in which it is and is not possible. It will cover:
What Does It Mean to Withdraw a Court Case?
Withdrawing a court case means that you drop your claim and end the case without pursuing any remedy from the defendant(s) (the person against whom the lawsuit is filed) in court.
The rules pertaining to the withdrawal of cases in Singapore are contained in Order 16 of the Rules of Court, some of which are discussed below.
Why Might You Want to Withdraw Your Court Case?
There are a number of reasons why litigants might choose to withdraw their case. Perhaps you have reached a settlement with the other party. Or perhaps, during the pre-trial phase of litigation, it has become clear to you that your claim has little chance of succeeding and you would rather cut your losses than spend further costs on litigation that is unlikely to succeed.
In some cases, you may have also learned that you are suing the wrong person for your claim, or maybe you just ran out of funds or motivation to maintain the action.
How to Withdraw a Court Case in Singapore
Whatever the reason, if you wish to withdraw your case in Singapore, there are a number of procedural issues to consider.
First, if all parties to the matter agree to you withdrawing the case, then it can be done at any time before trial, without needing the permission of the court, by producing to the registrar of the court a written consent to the action being withdrawn that is signed by all the parties.
However, if your case had been commenced by way of an originating claim (previously known as a “writ of summons”), neither the permission of the court nor the consent of the other parties is required to withdraw your case at any time within 14 days of the defendant serving their defence on you. Instead, you can simply withdraw your case by serving on the defendants a Notice of Discontinuance / Withdrawal in Form 32.
In almost all other circumstances, you would need to apply for permission of the court to withdraw your case, and this application may be made by filing a summons with the court.
Note that only the claimant (i.e. the person commencing the lawsuit, and who may also be known as the “plaintiff”) can apply to withdraw a case.
Can a Notice of Discontinuance be Set Aside?
It is very rare for a Notice of Discontinuance / Withdrawal to be set aside, but it is possible for the court to do so in very limited circumstances. The court will do this only if:
- Setting the Notice of Discontinuance / Withdrawal aside is necessary to prevent some injustice to another party (e.g. if it might deprive a co-claimant of a remedy); or
- The court finds that the filing of the Notice of Discontinuance / Withdrawal was an abuse of process.
What Happens Once a Case has been Withdrawn?
Usually, once a case has been withdrawn, it is still possible for you to re-commence the case again at a later date. This is unless the court directs otherwise when the case is withdrawn.
You should also be aware that ordinarily, if you withdraw your case, you will most likely have to pay the costs incurred by the other parties as part of the lawsuit so far. This is especially if you withdraw your case during later stages of the proceedings, and if the other parties have not agreed to bear their own costs.
Finally, you should be aware that just because you withdraw your case, this does not have the effect of withdrawing any counterclaims the defendant(s) may have filed against you, unless you can obtain their agreement to do so.
Withdrawing a case in Singapore is usually a relatively straightforward matter with which lawyers are very familiar. For non-lawyers, however, it can seem like a complex area fraught with risk and uncertainty.
If you are already represented by counsel in the litigation, it is advisable to retain them long enough to ensure that the case is properly and completely withdrawn if this is what you intend to do.
On the other hand, if you are acting for yourself, then following the simple guide set out above and reading Order 16 of the Rules of Court will at least point you in the right direction. But if you would rather leave this task in the hands of a competent lawyer, then you may consider consulting one of our experienced litigation lawyers for assistance with withdrawing your court case.
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