There are many reasons as to why someone might have commenced legal proceedings against you, in this article we will run through how you may wish to handle this situation. Please reach out to us directly should you require any assistance.
Should I Be Concerned About Being Sued?
The short answer is yes. If somebody is taking formal legal action against you, then you need to take it seriously, whether you feel it is justified or not. Whilst you may feel a law firm is biassed on such a topic, we would strongly recommend that you seek immediate legal representation to review your situation and provide (if nothing else), some initial advice on what to do when you get sued. You should also look to act quickly, as you will usually have a limited time window to make a legal response.
You should also look to act quickly, as you will usually have a limited time window to make a legal response.
Civil Litigation in Singapore: What Happens in a Civil Case in Singapore
A civil lawsuit only begins when the plaintiff files a formal complaint with the Court and serves you a Writ of Summons – a legal document which is used to commence legal proceedings. Legal proceedings do not begin until the Writ of Summons has been served personally to you or your solicitor.
This Writ of Summons is usually accompanied by a statement of claim, which states the relevant facts on which the claim is based and explains what kind of ‘reliefs’ (i.e., compensation) the plaintiff is seeking against you.
What Should You Do If You Receive a Writ of Summons?
Once you receive a Writ of Summons, you must act quickly to evaluate your options and work out a timeline. At this point, it is recommended that you seek legal advice. Only a qualified lawyer will be able to advise you on your available options, including steps to take after being sued, whether your defence has merit and whether you can counter-sue the plaintiff.
You will have to decide whether you want to try to win the case by going to trial. If you believe you have a good defence or excuse against the plaintiff’s claim, you may contest the claim. To avoid higher legal costs and delays to the proceedings, it is strongly recommended that you file a Memorandum of Appearance by the deadline (within 8 days of service of the Statement of Claim). If you fail to submit a Memorandum of appearance by this deadline, you may be unable to defend your case, and a judgement may be given against you by default.
Can I ignore the Writ of Summons?
Though it may be tempting to ignore a Writ of Summons, this will unfortunately not make it go away. Instead, it could result in a default judgement being entered against you. A default judgement will enable the plaintiff to take enforcement action against you if their application is successful. This could lead to your salary and bank account being garnished, your possessions can be taken from your home through a writ of seizure and sale, and there is even the possibility of bankruptcy. Once such a judgment is entered, it may be more difficult and costly to have it reversed.
Do not ignore a writ of summons – act.
Is there a way to avoid a trial?
Even in situations where you’re getting sued, it’s not necessary for all matters to end up at trial. If you do not wish to go to Court, you have two main alternatives available:
- You can write to the plaintiff and accept their claim against you, paying whatever amount he or she is asking for. If the claim is for a small sum of money, this option might be cheaper than legal representation.
- Alternatively, you could attempt to settle with the plaintiff. This is an option at any stage in civil litigation. If you and the plaintiff agree to settle the civil suit, inform the Court. The lawsuit will then be discontinued or withdrawn, with both parties having agreed to the terms.
What is a judgment in default of appearance?
Failure to respond or react, such as not filing a Memorandum of Appearance when you get served with a civil lawsuit, is considered to have “defaulted”. In these situations, the Court may issue a judgement in default of appearance against you. This signifies the plaintiff may likely receive whatever relief he or she claims, on top of any filing or Court fees related to the case.
Neglecting to address the suit can lead to considerable consequences. So, if you’re confused or unsure about what to do when you get sued, seeking legal counsel is advisable.
I Wish to Defend My Case and Have Entered a Memorandum of Appearance. What Now?
Having entered a Memorandum of Appearance, you now have 14 days to prepare your defense. If you fail to submit a Defence within this 14-day period, the Court may conclude that pleadings have closed, giving the plaintiff the liberty to apply for default judgement against you.
It’s highly recommended to consult a lawyer when preparing your defense. Steps to take after being sued include developing a sound strategy and presenting a strong defense in a manner addressing the various elements of the claim against you. If your defense isn’t well drafted, its potential inadequacy or irrelevance may lead to dismissal. The plaintiff might also apply to the Court for summary judgement, enabling the Court to rule in favour of the plaintiff without a trial. In such instances, despite having filed a defense, you stand to lose the case.
The Plaintiff is right, but I also have a claim against him. What can I do?
If you believe that you also have a separate legal claim against the plaintiff while getting sued, your lawyer can advise you on serving a counterclaim with the defense. You may be able to apply for summary judgement if the plaintiff has no defense to your counterclaim.
What happens before the trial?
Once the Defense and Reply (document prepared by the plaintiff in response to your defense) have been exchanged, both parties prepare for the civil litigation trial. This will involve a pre-trial conference (PTC) between the parties.
The plaintiff will apply to the Court for a ‘Summons for directions’ to determine the steps that need to be taken before trial. The Court may also order that the two parties proceed for mediation if parties are agreeable to having their dispute resolved through other means.
Preparing for the trial
Preparing for a civil suit trial is highly complex. The focus at this stage is on gathering and exchanging evidence, which often takes the form of affidavits (written statements from witnesses to be used in Court). It’s crucial to understand what to do when you get sued and the steps to take after being sued include submitting additional applications for Court orders, such as:
- Subpoenas – to ensure that witnesses attend trial;
- The discovery of documents – to require one party to give the other specific documents in its possession;
- Mareva injunctions – to freeze one party’s assets to prevent him or her from hiding money and property;
- Anton Piller orders – to require one party to allow the other to enter its premises to obtain required evidence before the other party destroys it.
What happens during the trial?
A trial is conducted by both parties’ lawyers. The plaintiff’s lawyers will usually commence the proceedings. Each of the plaintiff’s witnesses will then be cross-examined by the Defendant’s lawyers. If necessary, certain witnesses may also be re-examined. After all of the plaintiff’s witnesses have given evidence, the plaintiff’s case is closed. The defendant’s witnesses will then testify and be cross-examined by the Plaintiffs’ lawyers. After both parties have given evidence, lawyers will make closing submissions.
Judgement is either made immediately after the trial or if the matter is particularly complex, the Judge may also adjourn the proceedings to consider the arguments and evidence and instruct the parties on when to return for judgement.
In certain personal injury cases, the Judge may decide on the liability of the defendant but may take longer to decide on the amount of damages to be awarded.
If my Defence is unsuccessful, do I have any other options?
Once the Court has made its decision on a particular dispute, it will not make another decision on that matter. However, under specific circumstances, it is possible to appeal the Court’s decision only if your case has specific grounds for appeal. It is not possible to simply appeal because you are not happy with the outcome of your case.
What happens after the trial?
What happens after the trial depends on the Court’s judgement. The Judge may decide that one of the parties must pay some or all of the legal costs incurred by both parties.
If your defence is unsuccessful, you will likely be ordered to pay damages to the plaintiff or to settle your debts owing to the plaintiff. If you do not pay the money, there are numerous ways in which the plaintiff can enforce the Court’s judgement. The most common means is by the following:
- Examination of a Judgement Debtor
- Writ of Seizure & Sale
- Garnishee Proceedings
- Bankruptcy / Winding Up Proceedings
Examination of a Judgement Debtor (EJD) in Singapore
One of these ways is the Examination of a Judgement Debtor. In the event of getting sued and losing, you may be summoned by the Court to provide information on your money and property. This allows the Court to examine your assets so that the Court can decide on the best method of enforcing the debt. The Court also has the power to send you to prison if you do not attend this hearing.
Writ of Seizure and Sale & Garnishee Proceedings in Singapore
If you are unwilling or unable to pay the money that you owe, the plaintiff may steps to take after being sued and apply to the Court for a Writ of Seizure and Sale, which permits the Court Bailiffs to enter your home and seize your property to be sold at auction to satisfy the debt.
The Bailiff is entitled to enter your home even when you are not at home and can break a door or window to gain entry. Additionally, in a situation of a civil suit, the plaintiff may access money in your bank account by taking out Garnishee Proceedings.
If you are unable to pay after these options have been exercised, it may be necessary to declare yourself as a bankrupt. While you can file for bankruptcy yourself, your creditor is also able to apply for bankruptcy against you in a civil lawsuit.
If you find yourself in the situation of getting sued in Singapore, it is crucial to take the matter seriously and seek legal representation promptly. When served with a Writ of Summons, you should act quickly to evaluate your options and seek legal advice. Ignoring the summons may result in a default judgement against you. You can avoid trial by settling with the plaintiff or accepting their claim. If defending the case, file a Memorandum of Appearance and prepare a well-drafted defence. The trial, a key part of the civil litigation process, involves presenting evidence and making closing submissions, and the judge will deliver a judgement.
If unsuccessful, you may have to pay damages or settle debts, and the plaintiff can enforce the judgement through various means. This is an essential part of what to do when you get sued.
We have experienced lawyers who are well versed in Civil Litigation. Should you find yourself in a situation where you are being sued, contact us at +65 6298 2537 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment with one of our lawyers.
Glossary and Key Terms
Writ of Summons: A legal document used to commence civil legal proceedings in Singapore.
Memorandum of Appearance: A document filed by the defendant to indicate an intention to defend the case.
Summary Judgement: A judgement given without a trial when there is no valid defence to the plaintiff’s claim.
Counterclaim: A separate legal claim by the defendant against the plaintiff.
Pre-Trial Conference (PTC): A meeting between the parties to discuss and plan the trial proceedings.
Affidavits: Written statements from witnesses to be used as evidence in Court.
Subpoenas: Orders to ensure witnesses’ attendance at the trial.
Discovery of Documents: Process requiring one party to provide specific documents to the other party.
Mareva Injunctions: Orders to freeze a party’s assets to prevent hiding money or property.
Anton Piller Orders: Orders to allow a party to enter premises to obtain evidence before destruction.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Should I be concerned if I am being sued?
A: Yes, you should definitely take it seriously if you are getting sued. Seek immediate legal representation for advice.
Q: Can I ignore the Writ of Summons?
A: Ignoring the Writ could result in a default judgement against you, leading to enforcement actions. This is an essential step to consider after getting served with a lawsuit.
Q: How can I avoid trial in a civil case?
A: You can settle with the plaintiff or accept their claim, informing the Court to discontinue the civil lawsuit.
Q: What if I believe I have a claim against the plaintiff as well?
A: In a situation of a civil suit, you can serve a counterclaim along with your defence and seek summary judgement if the plaintiff has no defence.
Q: What happens during the trial?
A: Both parties’ lawyers present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and make closing submissions in the civil litigation process. The judge delivers the judgement.
Q: What if my defence is unsuccessful?
A: You may be ordered to pay damages or debts, and the plaintiff can enforce the judgement through various means. This is a vital part of what to do when you get sued.