Commencing A Civil Claim
If you have a civil case (e.g. a claim for breach of contract, or damage caused by negligence), the amount of your claim will determine which court you commence your action in.
In general, civil cases involving claims not exceeding $60,000 are dealt with by the Magistrates’ Courts. Claims of more than $60,000 but not exceeding $250,000 are dealt with by the District Courts. Claims above $250,000 are dealt with by the High Court.
The law does not require you to be represented by a lawyer unless you are a body corporate (e.g. a limited company or a private limited company).
Anyone who has a claim (known as the Plaintiff) may issue a Writ of Summons or an Originating Summons and have it served to the other party (known as the Defendant). If the Defendant does not dispute the Plaintiff's claim, the Defendant may wish to get in touch with either the Plaintiff or his/her lawyer to settle the claim immediately. By doing so, both parties would incur less legal costs.
If the Defendant disputes the claim, the Defendant should consult a lawyer quickly. The Defendant's lawyer will then file a document (Memorandum of Appearance) in Court on the Defendant's behalf to dispute the claim. This has to be done within 8 days of the receipt of the Writ of Summons or the Originating Summons. Instead of appointing a lawyer, the Defendant may also wish to file the Memorandum of Appearance by attending at the Registry of the appropriate court.
Note that refusing to acknowledge service of a Writ of Summons does not make the service of the Summons invalid. It also does not prevent the Plaintiff from proceeding further. The Plaintiff can obtain an Order of Court (Judgment) to compel the Defendant to pay up the amount claimed if the Memorandum of Appearance is not filed on time.
The Defendant must then file his/her Defence to the claim in Court and also deliver a copy of the Defence to the Plaintiff's address of service or the Plaintiff's lawyers at their office address within 22 days from the date that he/she was served with the Writ of Summons. If the Defendant has any counterclaim against the Plaintiff, the Defendant can also include it in his Defence against the Plaintiff’s claim.
The Plaintiff may deliver to the Defendant his/her reply (and defence to a counterclaim, if any) within 14 days after the Defence (and counterclaim) has been delivered to him/her.
Parties may appeal against decisions of a District Judge or Magistrate to the High Court. From the High Court, parties may appeal to the Court of Appeal unless the claims are prohibited from appeal under the law.