Law on Writ of Summons in Singapore

Last updated on April 1, 2022

Writ of summons headings

As of 1 April 2022, writs of summons are now known as originating claims. Read our other article to learn more about originating claims 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 (also known as a “plaintiff”) 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.

Table of Contents

Service of the Writ

The filing of a writ of summons (usually electronically, using eLitigation) by a claimant 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 claimant (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 law firm’s office. Where the defendant complies, service is also effected.

Service on a Company

Where a claimant 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.

Therefore, if your company operates fully remotely and you know that legal proceedings have been threatened against you, you should make arrangements to return to your registered office address from time to time.

This is in case a writ has been served to your registered address. The court may not be willing to set aside such a writ just because no one was around to receive it.

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 that is usually appended to the writ of summons. The statement of claim generally sets out the following matters:

  1. Identity of the claimant and the defendant;
  2. The nexus or link between the parties;
  3. The relevant obligations (that the claimant claims to have been breached);
  4. The material facts in support of the breach (if the claimant is alleging breach of contract);
  5. The losses suffered by the claimant due to the breach; and
  6. The relief claimed by the claimant.

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 claimant 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 claimant.

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 claimant. A counterclaim may be included in your defence where you have a cause of action against the claimant.

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.

Before Making a Claim
  1. Drafting an Enforceable Settlement Agreement in Singapore
  2. Should I Make A Police Report or Should I Sue?
  3. Differences between Criminal Law and Civil Law
  4. Should You Sue? 8 Things to Think About Before Suing
  5. How to Write a Cease and Desist Letter in Singapore
  6. Limitation Periods: What's the Deadline for Suing in Singapore?
  7. What to Do If Someone Sues Your Singapore Business
  8. Arbitration and Mediation: When They Can be Useful for Business Disputes
  9. Can I Sue a Foreigner or Foreign Company in Singapore?
  10. Mediation in Singapore
  11. Arbitration: When and How to Arbitrate Business Disputes in Singapore
  12. Third-Party Funding for Litigation in Singapore
  13. 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. Victim of a Wire Fraud? Here’s What You Can Do
  3. How to File an Originating Claim in a Singapore Lawsuit
  4. How to Bring a Class-Action Lawsuit in Singapore
  5. Letters of Demand and Their Usages in Singapore
  6. Law on Writ of Summons in Singapore
  7. Received a "Without Prejudice" Letter? Here’s What It Means
  8. What if I Cannot Find the Party I Want to Sue?
  9. Filing a Claim with the Small Claims Tribunals in Singapore
  10. First Meeting With Your Business Dispute Lawyer: What to Expect
  11. Negotiating a Settlement in a Business Dispute
  12. Security of Payment Act: Claiming Progress Payments for Construction Work Done
  13. Engaging a Queen’s Counsel or King's Counsel in Singapore
The Litigation Process
  1. Can You Withdraw Your Court Case in Singapore?
  2. Wasting the Court’s Time and Resources: Legal Consequences
  3. Natural Justice Explained: Your Right to a Fair & Unbiased Hearing
  4. Civil Litigation: How to Sue in Singapore (Step-by-Step Guide)
  5. Originating Application: What It Is and How to File in Singapore
  6. Notice of Intention to Contest or Not Contest: What is It?
  7. Affidavits in Singapore: What Are They & How to Prepare One
  8. 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. Giving Evidence via Video Link in a Singapore Lawsuit
  3. Prima Facie: What Does It Mean and How to Establish
  4. Hearsay Evidence: Admissibility and Objection of It in Singapore
  5. Admissibility of Evidence in the Singapore Courts
  6. Subpoenaed to be a Court Witness in Singapore: What You Need to Do
  7. Who is an Expert Witness and How to Use Expert Evidence in Singapore
  8. Destroying and Tampering With Evidence in Singapore
  9. A Guide to Legal DNA Testing in Singapore
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