Law on Writ of Summons in Singapore

Last updated on May 30, 2019

Writ of summons headings

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:

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

Before making a claim
  1. Differences between Criminal Law and Civil Law
  2. Limitation Periods Limiting the Right to Sue: the Limitation Act in Singapore
  3. Mediation in Singapore
  4. Arbitration and Mediation: When They Can be Useful for Business Disputes
  5. 6 Things You Need to Know about Third-Party Funding in International Arbitration
  6. Can I Sue a Foreigner in Singapore?
  7. Should You Sue? 8 Things to Think About Before Suing
  8. What to Do If Someone Sues Your Singapore Business
  9. Arbitration: When and How to Arbitrate Business Disputes in Singapore
  10. How to Write a Cease and Desist Letter in Singapore
Making a claim - the beginning of a dispute
  1. Law on Writ of Summons in Singapore
  2. Engaging a Queen’s Counsel in Singapore
  3. Letters of Demand and Their Usages in Singapore
  4. Making a Small Claim in the Small Claims Tribunals in Singapore
  5. Security of Payment Act: Claiming Progress Payments for Construction Work Done
  6. Negotiating a Settlement in a Business Dispute
  7. What if I Cannot Find the Party I Want to Sue?
  8. First Meeting With Your Business Dispute Lawyer: What to Expect
  9. Received a "Without Prejudice" Letter? Here’s What It Means
The Litigation Process
  1. Admissibility of Evidence in the Singapore Courts
  2. Civil Litigation in Singapore
  3. Gag orders – the law in Singapore
  4. Default Judgments and Summary Judgments in Singapore
  5. Memorandum of Appearance in Singapore: What It is and How to File
  6. After the Lawsuit: Who Has to Pay Whom, and How Much?
  7. Affidavits in Singapore: What are They, How to Prepare One and What Happens After That
  8. How to Get a Writ of Seizure and Sale to Enforce a Judgment
  9. Subpoenaed to be a Court Witness in Singapore: What You Need to Do
  10. Who is an Expert Witness and How to Use Expert Evidence in Singapore
Remedies available
  1. Types of Injunctions in Singapore
  2. Specific Performance: Obtaining this Equitable Remedy in Singapore