Complete guide on litigation process in Singapore
Litigation is defined as the process of taking legal action against someone in court. In contrast to litigation, mediation, arbitration, and neutral evaluation are some of the alternative methods that you can consider for dispute resolution.
Generally, the litigation can be categorized into two categories, i.e., civil and criminal categories. In terms of criminal litigation, the state, usually, a public prosecutor executes the legal proceedings against the individual for performing the punishable offence.
In terms of civil litigation, a party known as the plaintiff (or complainant) commences the legal proceedings against the other party defending the case against the defendant in order to obtain the claim of the punishable offence done. However, the claims can be in the form of anything from corporate disputes to tenancy disputes.
This article is all about the litigation process and some of the essential things associated with the process of litigation in Singapore.
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2 How to sue in Singapore
Prior to Legal Proceedings
Although litigation can be an expensive process, that’s why it is essential for the plaintiffs to carefully consider each aspect prior to taking a final decision on moving forward with suing the person in the court. Some of the legal considerations involved legal merits and the strength of the complainant case and ensuring the plaintiff is still within the deadline for legal action.
Additionally, there are few practical considerations that must be considered. Some are:
- The ultimate objectives of plaintiffs for suing the person in the court
- The financial resources of both the parties
- The possible deadline of the legal proceeding from start to enforcement
- If the outcome of the successful litigation might be sanctioned effectively.
Basically, litigation is the best form of dispute resolution. Therefore, each party prior to legal proceedings should consider whether going ahead with the litigation is reliable means of resolving the dispute or any other alternative methods they can go with.
The estimated time of the get the results of the legal proceedings in Singapore may take somewhere between 12 to 18 months for the state courts and 12 to 24 months or maybe more for the High Court. However, the actual deadline of the proceeding will be based on the issues in each case and how prominently the defendant is defending the case.
Prior to proceeding with the legal matters, the plaintiff has engaged in the law firm to work on their behalf. The first step taken by the plaintiffs’ lawyer is to send the demand letter to the other party asking them to fulfil the demand of the plaintiff’s demand or risk a lawsuit. If the plaintiffs’ demands are not fulfilled, the lawyer will recommend proceeding with the legal matters.
Some special rules are accounted to the certain procedures that involve the company’s winding up according to the Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Act 2018 or matrimonial proceedings such as divorces and annulments according to the Family Justice Act 2014.
How to sue in Singapore
It is a very broader process to take legal action against someone in Singapore. A simplified procedure applies for claiming with the Small Claims Tribunals. For additional information regarding legal action in Singapore, continue reading the below-shared points.
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Determining where to sue
A plaintiff may organize proceedings in the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT) accounted for the compensation falling within the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT) jurisdiction. The Small Claims Tribunals (SCT) have the authority to receive the claim of up to $20,000 or up to $30,000 only if both the parties agree to this claim limit.
If the disputes among the party fall outside the authority of the SCT, then the law must continue with the proceedings in the State Courts, including the district court and the magistrate court or the General division of the High Court.
The magistrate court has the authority to listen to the civil actions where disagreed amount is within the $60,000. On the other side, the district court has the authority to listen to civil action where the disputed compensation amount does not exceed $2,50,000.
If the compensation amount does not cross the district court’s jurisdiction, then the parties can agree in writing to appear in the hearing by the district court. If there is no such agreement, then the legal proceedings will begin in the general division of the High Court.
Filing and serving of a writ of summons or originating summons
A civil action is taken when a writ of summons or originating summons are filed and processed by the court. Basically, the writs of summons are filed where steady disputes of fact usually take place.
Finally, the summon needs to be prepared for the defendant. This service is generally affected by the clerk of the law firm, who has the responsibility to hand over the writ in person to the concerned defendant. Under several situations, the summons can be supplied by putting on the gates or doors, through email or internet communication like WhatsApp.
Warrants can also be sent to the defendant situated outside Singapore with the permission of the court. This means that you can take legal action against the specific party even if they are staying outside Singapore.
After the warrant has been provided, a memorandum of service needs to be submitted to the court.
On the flip side, legal action is taken by sending warrants to the party in which it has made it mandatory by the law, or if the dispute is in respect with the matter of law.
Entering an appearance
A defendant may choose to defend the case and enter into the appearance by submitting the memorandum of appearance with the respective court. The defendant needs to basically enter into the appearance prior to the date specified in the writ, but it will still be considered valid if there is any delayed appearance.
Defendant also has the option to choose not to defend the lawsuit. If so, the defendant will not be liable to enter into the appearance, and the plaintiffs will then apply for the judgment in the hearing. In this situation, the judge decides on the case and takes the final decision on the judgment without the defendants’ participation.
In most situations, the written statement of claim will be attached to the decree. The provided statement will include a few material facts that support the complainant’s cause of action. The statement will also involve relief the plaintiffs seek, i.e., what the complainant demands from the defendant if the lawsuit succeeds.
For example, in the employment dispute filed by the employee to get the unpaid wages, the statement will contain the following things:
- The information of the undertaken employment contract
- The reason behind the dispute between the employer and the employee
- The statement also contains the number of unpaid wages that employees demanding from the employer.
Applying to add third-parties
If the defendant finds that another party is also liable to contribute to the plaintiff’s compensation amount. In that case, the defendant can apply to include a specific party as a third party, leading to third-party proceedings.
Applying for summons for directions
Once the pleadings have been closed (when the defence and the reply have been processed), the plaintiff needs to be ready with the writ for further proceedings.
The writ for directions takes place only when a party needs it to effectively evaluate several issues to prepare for the trial. This could include the following things:
- The final date for filing and exchanging of the affidavit
- The duration of the trial
- Party will also require agreeing on what evidence will be used during the trial, like expert evidence or the photograph.
- The number of witnesses that every party must require
Undergoing the discovery process
Discovery is the essential process of taking legal action against someone in Singapore. It is the process through which the parties to a dispute acquire from each other the necessary document that will act as evidence to take a decision on the case.
At the writ for the hearings, once the parties have exchanged the pleadings, the court directs them to exchange the relevant documents in the lawsuit.
Relevant documents are something that plays a vital role in deciding on the case. The relevant documents include those on which the parties rely on or will continue to rely on or such documents that might affect or support the party‘s case. The respective party is responsible for providing the relevant document, irrespective of if the relevant documents can affect the case.
Applying for interlocutory applications
While preparing for the case for trial during the pre-trial stages, every party will require submitting the interlocutory applications to the court to prepare for the case or several other purposes.
Few examples of the most common interlocutory application include:
- Application for specific discovery: If the party thinks that the other party has not yet revealed all relevant supporting documents, they may file the application for specific discovery to the court to order the other party to reveal all the documents.
- Application for the amendment of the various documents filed: The parties might file the application to alter the documents already filed in the suit (for example, statement of defence, reply, or claim).
- Application for an interlocutory injunction: At any point of the legal proceedings, but quickly after the issue of the summons, a party concerning the case needs to apply the court to pass the interlocutory injunction supervising the other party to do or not to do a particular thing until the trial periods end.
- Application for Mareva injunction: The Mareva injunction is defined as one of the applications mainly introduced to avoid the parties from taking further steps to frustrate the court‘s order or direction deliberately. This application involves the party from misusing the asset (either locally or worldwide) to prevent the risk of complying with any judgment or order which might be undertaken against them in the legal proceedings.
- Application for Anton Piller order: The Anton Piller order means restricting the defendant from demolishing all the accusing evidence by asking several person/agents to enter into the respective defendant’s premises to look for, retain documents, seize, or several other items. The party can file this type of application without sending any prior notice to the defendant.
- Application for security for costs: The defendant might request the court order to provide security to the plaintiffs (or claimant) to provide security to the defendant’s cost against the plaintiff’s litigation to make sure that such types of costs are enclosed under the plaintiff’s litigation failure.
Attending the pre-trial conference
The pre-trial conference is the sessions organized with the judge to confirm that all the pre-trial proceedings and applications are engaged with prior to the matters are carried forward for the trial.
Filing affidavits and applying for subpoenas
Prior to proceeding with the trial, each party has to be ready, exchange, and submit an affidavit of evidence in chief of each available eyewitness. These can be done in writing sworn statements provided by the witnesses who will be appearing in the hearing as their testimony at the trial and depending on which they will be cross-examined.
Subpoenas might also be issued to make sure about the presence of the witnesses during the trial. If the witness failed to appear at the trial, then the court will deny the affidavit that was submitted as evidence in chief.
Applying to set down dates for trial
Once the pleadings, including a statement of reply, defence, and claim, have been successfully filed, the several pre-trial matters have been engaged, and the concerned parties are prepared for the trial, either the complainant or the suspect (usually the plaintiff) will settle down the case for trial.
The process of suing in Singapore will be done by submitting a Notice for Setting down an Action for Trial with the relevant supporting documents to support the case. After then, the court will schedule a date for the trial.
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The trials are basically organized by the lawyers symbolizing the various parties. However, a party has the option to choose not to get symbolized by the lawyer. In that case, the specific party is considered as the litigant in person and is entitled to organize a trial by them.
In most situations, the plaintiffs’ lawyers will continue with the proceedings on the plaintiff’s case unless the defendant proves all the issues in the case by proceeding with the opening speech in the court. After then, the litigant witnesses will be called upon in the witness box for cross-examining.
In the cross-examination process, the defending lawyer will ask a few of the plaintiffs’ witnesses regarding the testimony. After that, the plaintiff’s lawyer might re-examine the witness after the cross-examination. This is continued by asking few queries with them which might clear all raised issues during cross-examination.
Once all the witnesses of the litigant have submitted the evidence, the case of the litigants gets closed. Now it is the chance of the defendant eyewitness to get cross-examine and re-examined based on the evidence provided.
Once the witness of the defendant has provided the testimony, the parties will proceed with the closing argument, based on the judge and the complications of the situation. However, the closing submissions can be delivered either in writing or verbal form as specified in the laws.
Judgments and orders
The judgment is the outcome of the court after listening to the closing arguments of the trial. The court takes the decision immediately once the respective lawyers of both parties have done the closing submission. However, in most cases, the court might adjourn the case for a further date to consider the case more closely and determine the submitted evidence. In such a situation, the court informs the concerned party to attend the hearing later for the final judgment.
In some cases, like a personal injury claim, the court judge might take the judgment based on the liability but do not make the ruling on the actual number of damages or compensation that needs to be paid to the victim. In this situation, the compensation amount that needs to be paid will be determined by the registrar present in the hearing.
Prior to determining the compensation amount, the registrar will first go through the evidence from the respective parties, like the injured plaintiff and the medical experts, to evaluate the exact amount of damage that needs to be paid to the injured person.
Enforcement of judgments and orders
Once the court makes the final judgment or order, the winning party can further consider the court’s order. Judgment can be executed in several ways.
For example, if the injured plaintiff wins the case and the defendant person does not intend to pay the compensation amount, then the plaintiff has the complete right to sell the defendant’s property to get the claim amount owed to him.
Based on the types of judgment done and the available assets of the party liable to pay the damages, other enforcement methods include bankruptcy and winding-up applications, writs of possession, writs of delivery, writs of distress, committal, garnishee, and receivership appointments might be used.
If any of the plaintiffs or the defendant does not agree with the decision of the judgment, they can file the appeal against the decision in the high court.
Settlement between Parties
Offer to settle
A party to the claim might consider on any other party to settle on one or more claims in the lawsuit terms as specified in the offer to settle. If the settlement offer is accepted and considered, then the litigation process will be either withdrawn or discontinued.
If one party drafts the formal offer for the settlement but the other party do not want to accept this settlement offer or reject the settlement, and the party who has issued a settlement offer wins the case on those terms which are much more favourable than the conditions of the formal offer, then that party will be liable to additional legal costs.
However, suppose the offer has been agreed by both the parties and the matter has been settled with less cost implication, then the court and the respective parties’ time and resources can be saved from future litigation.
Court Dispute Resolution (CDR)
During the hearing for the court order for further decisions, the court dispute resolution can be ordered by the judge. This court dispute resolution is defined as the alternative method undertaken by the court to clear out all the disputes instead of litigating the issues in the court. Some of the alternative methods of this dispute resolution include mediation, Arbitration, or neutral evaluation.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
During the trial process, the court can also provide options to the respective parties if they are willing to resolve the issues through alternative dispute resolution methods like Arbitration or meditation.
Meditation is defined as one of the service options available that the state Court Centre can issue for solving the dispute at a reasonable price compared to the litigation process. This service is also provided by third-party mediation centres like the Singapore mediation Centre. The mediation is referred to as the default ADR option available.
In contrast, Arbitration is quite an expensive method when compared to mediation and neutral evaluation. Still, it provides you with some cost-saving options as compared to the litigation process. However, the Law Society of Singapore offers several low-cost Arbitration services through its Law Society Arbitration program.
Besides medication and Arbitration, respective parties also have the option to negotiate resolution concerning their disputes. A successful negotiation among the parties might enable the party to save a considerable amount on legal costs.
However, there are several kinds of costs orders; the court generally orders the unsuccessful party to pay the compensation amount to the successful party. The unsuccessful party is required to pay a portion of the legal cost of the successful party. Such cost orders are entirely done at the court’s discretion, and there are certain exceptions also when the winning party is not provided with the legal cost.
For instance, the court may choose not to reward the cost to the winning party if they had acted strange when conducting the case.
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Finally, you might be aware of the litigation process or how to sue someone in Singapore. This article has all the details that are sufficient enough to let you understand the litigation process and essential details associated with the litigation. Do not miss even a single point as it is a legal matter.
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