About Writs of Summons

A civil action begins when a party (the plaintiff) files a claim document called an originating process against another party (the defendant).

A Writ of Summons (Writ) is the most common example of an originating process. It is a formal document addressed to the defendant which serves to notify them of the proceedings.

You should file a Writ if your civil action involves substantial disputes of fact. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Contract actions
    • Examples include claims for damages resulting from a breach of contractual terms and obligations.
    • Tort actions
      • Examples include claims for damages in respect of property damage resulting from road accidents and negligence, or claims for damages resulting from fraud and defamation.
      • Personal injury actions
        • Examples include claims for damages in respect of personal injury or death resulting from road and industrial accidents or negligence.
        • Intellectual property actions
          • Examples include claims for damages resulting from the infringement of copyright, trademark or patent
          • Admiralty and shipping actions.
You should file a Writ for your civil action within the time limits from the date on which the event creates your cause of action as prescribed by law. A cause of action is the set of facts that entitles you to start a court action against another party.

Refer to the following for examples of civil actions and their respective time limits. Please note that the list serves as a general guide and is non-exhaustive. You may also refer to the Limitation Act for more information such as the date from which the time limit will commence.

If you are starting a...

You should file...

Contract action

Within 6 years.

Tort action

Within 6 years.

Personal injury action

Within 3 years.

Recovery of land and rent action

Within 12 years.

About the civil process begun by Writ

If you are the plaintiff, the amount you are intending to claim from the other party will determine which court you should file your Writ in.

This section describes the civil process for the following cases:

  • Civil cases heard in the District Court begun by a Writ.
    • The District Court hears claim sums up to $250,000, or up to $500,000 for road traffic accident claims or claims for personal injuries arising out of industrial accidents, when they are transferred from the High Court.
  • Civil cases heard in the General Division of the High Court begun by a Writ.
    • The General Division of the High Court hears claim sums exceeding $250,000 or, in the case of road traffic accident claims or claims for personal injuries arising out of industrial accidents, exceeds $500,000.
Note
Refer to Start a civil claim by Writ of Summons (simplified civil process) if either of the following applies to your case:

  • Civil cases heard in the Magistrate's Court begun by a Writ.
  • Civil cases heard in the District Court begun by a Writ and if all parties consent to the application of the simplified civil process.

Civil process (Writ of Summons) step-by-step

Refer to the following to find out about the civil process begun by a Writ.

Start a civil claim

File an originating process and pleadings

If you are the plaintiff, a civil action starts when you file and serve a Writ together with written statements of facts about your claim on the defendant.

Start a civil claim

File a request for a default judgment, if needed

You may enter a default judgment against the defendant if they do not respond to your Writ by filing a Memorandum of Appearance (MOA) within 8 days from receiving the Writ (the time limit for appearance). The filing of an MOA is also known as entering an appearance.

You may also enter a default judgment if the defendant does not file a defence within 14 days of the time limited for appearance.

After the closing of pleadings

Prepare the case for trial

The most common step after the close of pleadings is the discovery and inspection of documents. At discovery, parties are expected to disclose to each other documentary evidence.

The court may direct parties to attend a pre-trial conference relating to the matters arising in the action or proceedings. The court may also require you to file a summons for directions to state the further steps you and the defendant need to take to effectively prepare for trial.

After the closing of pleadings

File an interlocutory application, if needed

In further preparation of a case for trial, either party may also file interlocutory applications with the court. This is done by filing a summons, which should usually be supported by an affidavit.

After the closing of pleadings

Set down the action for trial

Once all pre-trial matters have been dealt with, you must set the case down for trial to inform the court that you and the defendant are ready to fix the trial dates.

After the trial dates are fixed

Attend court for trial

Both you and the defendant, and your lawyers (if any) will take turns to present their case to the judge during a civil trial.

After a judgment is made

File an appeal or enforce judgment or order, if needed

If you are not satisfied with the court's judgment or decision after the trial, you may file an appeal.

You may also take steps to enforce an order or judgment if the defendant does not comply with it.

After a judgment is made

Attend court for post-trial matters

The court will decide the amount of costs and disbursements as may be payable between parties after court proceedings conclude.

2021/10/13

Resources

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Legislation associated with this topic include:

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