Civil Litigation

Civil Litigation Lawyer In Singapore – Read This Before Going To Court

Written by Team Farallon | November 21, 2018

What Is Civil Litigation?

Civil Litigation refers to the process of taking legal action against another party to pursue a claim. Generally, what defines a matter as civil litigation is the fact that the State is not a party involved in proceedings.

To start civil litigation proceedings in Singapore, a plaintiff can commence an action by issuing a Writ of Summons through a law firm in Singapore. Parties involved in the dispute are considered private parties (company or an individual).

Litigation proceedings are generally expensive and attract unwanted publicity in some cases. In Singapore, Alternative Dispute Resolution is becoming increasingly popular due to the flexibility, level of control, and speed of methods such as arbitration and mediation.

Before You Initiate Civil Litigation Proceedings Through Your Lawyer

More often than not, most parties do not want their matter to end up in court, as it is a costly and timely affair.

Bearing this in mind, before commencing legal action, it is common for claimants to deliver a letter of demand to the other party, in an attempt to compel them to comply with the claims or face legal proceedings. Letters of demand are sent through a qualified civil litigation lawyer.

In cases where the letter of demand fails to compel the other party to ascede to the claims, your lawyer will advise on commencing litigation procedures.

Does Your Matter Qualify For Civil Proceedings?

Depending on the nature of your case, and the amount you’re claiming in damages, your litigation lawyer will advise you on the most logical course of action.

For example, if you’re claiming an amount below $20,000, your lawyer may advise against bringing the matter to court due to the high costs involved.

Here are the amounts that each court has the power to hear civil actions on:

If You Win, Can The Opposing Party Afford To Pay You Back?

An important factor to consider when suing someone, or a company; does the opposing party have sufficient assets to pay you back – in the event of you obtaining a judgement in your favour?

What’s the point of suing someone who has little money in the bank, a company that is currently being sued by multiple creditors, or the husband who’s properties are all under his wife’s name?

Some ways to “qualify” the opposing party’s ability to pay you in the event you obtain a judgement in your favour:

  1. (Bankruptcy Search) – This one is obvious and doesn’t need an explanation
  2. (Litigation Search) – Check if an individual or company is being sued, or has been sued in the past few years
  3. (Property Search) – You know where they live? Do a property search on the address to find out information about the owners, mortgage status, or outstanding charges to gain some insight
  4. (Personal Profile Search) – Searching for an individual can allow you to pull information such as the number of company directorships they are holding; if they hold shares of any companies, and subsequently researching the abovementioned companies to determine profitability etc – this should give you a fair idea of the person’s ability to pay you back

Commencing Civil Proceedings In Singapore

After due diligence has been exercised, the first thing your lawyers will do is to file a writ of summons with the appropriate court of law. Once the writ has been processed, a representative of the law firm will hand deliver the writ to the opposing party.

According to the Rules Of Court, upon successful service of a writ, a memorandum of service must be filed with the court.

(4) Where a writ is duly served on a defendant otherwise than by virtue of paragraph (3), then, subject to Order 11, Rule 3, unless within 8 days after service the plaintiff files a memorandum of service in Form 6 containing the following particulars, that is to say, the day of the week, date and time on which it was served, where it was served, how it was served, the person on whom it was served, and, where he is not the defendant, the capacity in which he was served, the plaintiff in the action begun by the writ shall not be entitled to enter final or interlocutory judgment against that defendant in default of appearance or in default of defence, unless the Court otherwise orders.

When A Writ Of Summons Is Served…

To defend your case in court when a Writ of Summons has been served to you in person, you are required to file a Memorandum of Appearance before the deadline (generally 8 days)

The purpose of the Memorandum of Appearance is to inform the plaintiff and the court that your intention is to contest the plaintiff claims. This is a very important document in a civil suit. , an important document in a civil suit purpose is to inform

If you have been served a Writ of Summons and you wish to defend your case in Court, you will need to file a Memorandum of Appearance through your lawyer before the deadline stated in the Writ (typically eight (8) days).

Alternatively, you can choose NOT to make an appearance. This means that you are not defending yourself or your company in the lawsuit. This is strongly advised against, as the plaintiff will then apply for a favourable judgement in default of your appearance.

This generally means that the judge hands down judgement without your participation (you lose the case).

Pleadings (Statement Of Claims)

In most cases, when a writ of summons is served, one will find a Statement Of Claim attached to the writ. This document will spell out the facts of the matter according to the plaintiff and attempt to lay out the plaintiff’s claims which led to the civil suit. Generally, whatever relief (the amount or judgement the plaintiff is seeking) is sought by the plaintiff, will also be included in the Statement of Claim.

Example of facts in a Statement Of Claim:

Company A is suing Company X for $500k for breach of contract while upgrading Company A’s internet servers. During the setup, actions taken by Company X led to 80% of Company A’s data being wiped out from the previous servers, leading to a massive loss of data. 

In the statement of claim, Company A (the plaintiff) will attempt to spell out the material facts that led to the loss of data, quantify their losses suffered, and the relief they are seeking from Company X.

Pleadings (Defense and/or Counterclaim)

Upon receiving the Statement Of Claim, the defendant, after submitting the Memorandum of Appearance, will now serve his defence on the plaintiff’s claim(s).

The defence documents are the defendant’s version of the material facts, and will generally attempt to argue for reasons why the defendant is not liable for relief claimed against them by the plaintiff.

Should the defendant have a counterclaim to submit against the plaintiff, this should be served along with the defence.

Note: There is usually a time limit for submitting defence and counterclaims.

Judgement In Default (Defence Not Filed)

There are cases where the defendant, served with the writ, entered an appearance by filing The Memorandum of Appearance but failed to serve a defence.

In such cases, the plaintiff may apply for the Court to enter judgement in default against the defendant.

Depending on the nature of the claim, the judgement may be an interlocutory judgement or a final judgement.

Plaintiff’s Reply to Counterclaim

The plaintiff has the option to file his reply within the 14-day time limit after the Defence has been served. In the event there is a counterclaim, the plaintiff may also file a reply to the Counterclaim.

 

Third-Party Notice & Similar Proceedings

According to Order 16 of the Rules Of Court, if it is the view of the defendant that a third party (someone who is not already a party in the proceedings), should contribute to the plaintiff’s claim, or indemnify the defendant in any way, the defendant may apply to the Court to add that party to the action.

In a third-party proceeding, the defendant is generally viewed as the plaintiff, and the third-party, as the defendant.

After Pleadings (Summons For Directions)

Summons for directions is the next time in the proceedings, and take place when both parties are determining their next steps for trial preparation.

This is generally where most of the evidence is exchanged between both parties, such as affidavits, number of witnesses, physical evidence, and also the estimated length of the trial.

Basically, at this stage, the plaintiff and defence will lay their cards on the table, and prepare for trial.

The Last Step Before Going To Trial (Court Dispute Resolution)

To encourage people to settle their disputes and avoid a long and costly trial, at this stage, the judge may order both parties to Court Dispute Resolution.

In a bid to enhance the quality of alternative dispute resolution in Singapore, various methods of dispute resolution such as mediation, are now being offered by the courts. One such example is the Centre For Dispute Resolution in the State Courts.

Available Alternative Dispute Resolution methods are:

Setting Down & Subpoenas

Once ready for hearing, the plaintiff’s action will have to file a Request for Setting Down Action for Trial, and pay any hearing fees. Below are links to the hearing fees for the various Courts in Singapore:

At this stage subpoenas are issued to witnesses, to ensure their attendance at trial. Witnesses who have been identified have to turn up or their evidence will be rejected by the Court.

Order Of Proceedings In A Trial

All proceedings in a trial, as described in Order 35 of the Rules of Court, have been structured with the purpose of allowing the respective parties to provide evidence to support their claims and counterclaims.

After the plaintiff and the defence have introduced their facts, called their witnesses, and cross-examined each other’s witnesses, the Court may decide to seek oral or written closing submissions.

Once closing submissions have been made, the judge will deliver his judgement, or reserve judgement to be delivered at a later date.

Seeking Costs

Following the judgement, parties will have to file costs to state the costs they are seeking, for the Court’s consideration.

Enforcement of judgments

There are various ways available to a plaintiff to enforce the judgement of the courts:

Writ Of Execution (Writ Of Seizure & Sale, Writ Of Delivery)

This is one of the options available for the enforcement of a Judgment or Order.

Under a WSS, a Judgment Creditor can request the Court to seize and sell movable property belonging to the other party to satisfy the judgment debt.

It is one of several ways to enforce a Judgment or Order for payment of money when the Judgment Debtor fails to pay within the time ordered by the Court or Tribunal.

The properties seized will be sold during a public auction if the Judgement Debtor fails to settle the Judgement Debt.

Examination Of Judgement Debtor

The winning party may apply for the Judgement Debtor to be examined to determine what assets are available to settle the judgement debt.

The Judgement Creditor will serve a Court Order with a questionnaire enclosed requiring the Judgement Debtor to attend court and to complete the questionnaire.

If the Judgement Debtor fails to turn up in Court for the hearing, there is a change that proceedings may be initiated for him to be committed to prison.

Winding Up Application

The judgement creditor may apply to the Court to have the company wound up if the company is unwilling or unable to repay or settle the debt.

Garnishee Proceedings

A Garnishee Order compels the garnishee (someone who owes money to the Judgement Debtor) to pay the Judgement Creditor instead of the Judgement Debtor.

Example: The Judgement Creditor applies to the court to order the Judgement Debtor’s bank to pay the Judgement Creditor the amount owed, provided there is sufficient money in the bank.

Conclusion

A civil suit is a complex process, and good decisions have to be made in the early stages to increase your chances of success in a lawsuit. Speak to a civil litigation expert at Farallon Law today, tell us about your matter, and we’ll try our best to assist you.

 

 

Sources
https://www.statecourts.gov.sg/CivilCase/Pages/ExaminationofJudgmentDebtor.aspx
https://epd.supremecourt.gov.sg/PART-10-Enforcement-Of-Judgments-And-Orders.html
https://www.supremecourt.gov.sg/rules/court-processes/civil-proceedings/commencement-of-an-action
https://www.statecourts.gov.sg/CivilCase/Pages/Overview1211-284.aspx