Law on Writ of Summons in Singapore
A writ of summons is a court document used to commence civil proceedings in Singapore. In most cases, the writ is preceded by a letter of demand, which is usually sent on behalf of a claimant by his lawyer. If the letter of demand is not complied with, the claimant may then choose to resort to legal action. A sample writ may be found here.
Service of the Writ
The filing of a writ of summons (usually electronically, using eLitigation) by a plaintiff or his lawyer commences legal proceedings against the named defendant. Subsequently, the writ will be processed by the Courts for issuance. The issued writ is then served by the solicitor’s clerk or a process server on the defendant or his solicitors (where the solicitors have been instructed to accept service of legal processes on behalf of the defendant). The writ must be served within the time limit permitted by the Court, but it is possible to request for a time extension.
It is the obligation of the plaintiff (or his lawyer) to serve the writ onto the defendant. Legal proceedings do not continue until service is effected. While there are exceptions, personal service of the writ is usually mandatory. Personal service is effected by delivering a copy of the writ to the defendant by hand.
In Singapore, some law firms instead choose to notify the defendant with a letter sent to their doorsteps, requesting the defendant to collect the writ at the firm’s office. Where the defendant complies, service is also effected.
Service on a Company
Where a plaintiff commences legal proceedings against a company, service of the writ may be effected by serving the writ on an officer of the company (such as a director), or by leaving it at or sending it by registered post to the registered office of the company.
Substituted Service of the Writ
If personal service of the writ is impracticable, the Court may allow substituted service of the writ. For instance, substituted service may be permitted where a defendant leaves Singapore to evade service, or is constantly moving from country to country, or cannot be found.
Serving the Writ Outside Singapore
Writs may be served on a defendant outside of Singapore with the permission of the Court – this means that it is possible to sue a party located outside of Singapore.
Statement of Claim
The statement of claim is a court document which is usually appended to the writ of summons. The statement of claim generally sets out the following matters:
- Identity of the plaintiff and the defendant;
- The nexus or link between the parties;
- The relevant obligations (which the plaintiff claims to have been breached);
- The material facts in support of the breach (if the plaintiff is alleging breach of contract);
- The losses suffered by the plaintiff due to the breach; and
- The relief claimed by the plaintiff.
What to Do If You Receive a Writ of Summons
As the defendant, after receiving a writ, you must then decide if you wish to contest the claim.
If you choose not to contest the claim, the plaintiff can apply for a judgment without trial. The Court will make a judgment (called a default judgment) against you and assess the sum of money you have to pay to the plaintiff.
If you feel that you have a defence (i.e. a “legal excuse”) not to repay your debts, you may contest the claim. It is advisable to engage a lawyer or sign up for legal aid if you qualify. Upon receipt of the writ, you must then enter your appearance, by filing a memorandum of appearance in Court before the deadline stipulated on the writ to inform the Court that you wish to fight the case.
Subsequent to your appearance, you must then serve your defence on the plaintiff. A counterclaim may be included in your defence where you have a cause of action in reverse against the plaintiff.
After you decide to contest the case, you will have to go through the pretrial processes. These may include interlocutory applications, or even mediation to settle out of court. You can read more about the civil litigation process here.
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