Navigating the legal system can be worrisome, especially when initiating legal proceedings. Two primary ways to start a civil claim exist in Singapore: Originating Claims (previously known as Writ of Summons) and Originating Applications (OA).
While seemingly similar, these processes differ in their purpose, application, and procedural steps. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for anyone contemplating legal action.
1. What Is An Originating Claim (Previously Writ Of Summons)?
An Originating Claim (known previously as a writ of summons) is a formal legal document used to initiate a civil claim in the Singapore Courts. It serves as the foundation for legal proceedings, outlining the nature of the claim, the parties involved, and the desired relief or remedy.
2. What Is The Purpose Of An Originating Claim In Singapore (Previously Writ Of Summons)?
As the foundation of a civil claim, an Originating Claim fulfils three key purposes:
Formal Notification: This is a formal announcement to the defendant, informing them of the legal action being brought against them. This ensures transparency and due process, allowing the defendant to prepare their responses and defences.
Detailed Account: The Originating Claim meticulously details the nature of the alleged wrongdoing or breach of contract.
It comprehensively records the events leading to the claim, including relevant dates, facts, and evidence. This equips the Court with a clear understanding of the situation and allows them to make informed decisions.
Desired Outcome: The Originating Claim clearly outlines the specific relief or remedy sought by the claimant. This could involve financial compensation for damages, a Court order to enforce a particular action, or any other form of necessary redress.
By explicitly stating their desired outcome, the claimant sets the expectations for the legal process and guides the Court towards a just resolution.
3. In What Instances Is An Originating Claim Filed In Singapore?
Determining when to file an Originating Claim in Singapore involves careful analysis of your case. Not every case requires this formal approach; hence, here are key instances wherein filing an Originating Claim may be appropriate:
Breach Of Contract
- When a party does not uphold their contractual obligations, causing the other party financial loss or harm.
- Examples: Non-payment of debts, breach of warranties, failure to deliver goods or services.
- When one party’s careless actions or inaction harms another.
- Examples: Traffic accidents, medical malpractice, product liability claims.
- When an individual suffers physical or psychological injury due to another party’s negligence or wrongdoing.
- Examples: Workplace accidents, slip and fall incidents, medical negligence.
- When a creditor seeks to recover outstanding debts owed by a debtor.
- Examples: Unpaid invoices, personal loans, and business debts.
- When disagreements arise regarding ownership, boundaries, or access to property.
- Examples: Land disputes, inheritance issues, trespass cases.
4. How Do You Prepare An Originating Claim In Singapore?
For A Normal Civil Process
- Applications: Complex legal disputes involving substantial financial claims (exceeding S$250,000) or intricate legal issues.
- Document format: Adheres to a formal structure outlined in Form 8.
- Procedures: Follow strict Court rules involving detailed pleadings, witness examinations, potential pretrial hearings, and legal representation by a qualified lawyer.
- Timeframe: Generally takes longer to resolve due to the complexity of procedures.
For A Simplified Civil Process
- Applicable to: Less complex legal disputes involving smaller financial claims (up to S$250,000).
- Document format: Follows a simplified structure outlined in Form 8.
- Procedures: Designed to be easier to navigate with reduced formalities, lower Court fees, and the possibility of proceeding without legal representation.
- Magistrate’s Court: Claim amount must not exceed S$60,000.
- District Court: All parties involved must file their consent following Form 3. Claims range from S$60,000 to S$250,000 (except for road traffic accident claims or personal injury claims arising from industrial accidents, where the limit is S$500,000).
- Timeframe: May resolve disputes faster than normal processes due to simplified procedures.
5. What Information Should Be Included When Preparing An Originating Claim?
- Claimant: The individual or entity bringing the legal action. Provide full name and address.
- Defendant: The individual or entity against whom the legal action is brought. Provide full name and address.
- Specify the Court where you are filing the Originating Claim. This will depend on the amount of money being claimed and the nature of the dispute.
Cause of Action
- Clearly identify the legal basis for your claim. This could be a breach of contract, negligence, personal injury, or any other relevant legal principle. Cite the specific law or statute that the defendant allegedly violated.
Statement Of Facts
- Provide a detailed and chronological account of the events leading to the dispute. This should include dates, times, locations, and relevant details supporting your claim. Be specific and avoid making vague or unsubstantiated statements.
Particulars Of The Claim
- Outline the specific acts or omissions of the defendant that caused you harm. Explain how the defendant’s actions or inaction breached their legal duty towards you. Quantify any damages you have suffered, such as financial losses, property damage, or personal injury.
Relief Or Remedy Sought
- Clearly state the outcome you are seeking from the Court. This could be financial compensation, an injunction, specific performance of a contract, or any other form of relief available under the law. Specify the amount of damages you are seeking if relevant.
- Indicate whether a lawyer represents you. If so, provide the lawyer’s name, address, and contact information.
- The Originating Claim must be signed and verified by the claimant or their legal representative. This confirms that the information provided is accurate and true to your knowledge and belief.
What Is A Statement Of Claim?
A Statement of Claim initiates a lawsuit against another party. It lays the foundation of your case and outlines the facts of the dispute, the legal basis for your claim and the relief or remedy sought by you.
Failure to submit the Statement of Claim (filed through Form 9) with the Originating Claim is a critical error. Neglecting to submit this allows the defendant to request a Court order dismissing your entire action and jeopardising your legal pursuit.
6. Steps In Filing An Originating Claim In Singapore
Step 1: Draft the Originating Claim and Statement of Claim (Form 8 and Form 9)
Utilise the prescribed Forms 8 and 9 provided by the Singapore Courts to draft your Originating Claim and Statement of Claim. These forms require details like the parties involved, the claim’s legal basis and the relief sought.
If filing personally: Access the forms online at the Singapore Courts website or obtain them from the State Courts Service Hub or Legal Registry of the Supreme Court.
If filing through a lawyer: Your lawyer will file an online application through the eLitigation portal, which only law firms can access.
Step 2: File And Serve The Claim
Navigating the Legal Maze: Steps in Filing an Originating Claim in Singapore
Legal action through an Originating Claim in Singapore requires careful planning and meticulous execution.
While the process may seem daunting, understanding the key steps can empower individuals to navigate the legal system effectively.
Step 3: File and Serve the Claim
- 3a: Pay Filing Fees
- Pay the required filing fees at the State Courts Service Hub (for District Court cases) or the Legal Registry of the Supreme Court (for High Court cases). Payments can be made in person or online.
- 3b: Serve the Originating Claim and Statement of Claim
- Arrange for the Court process server to deliver the Originating Claim and Statement of Claim to the defendant. You can request this service at the State Courts Service Hub or engage a private process server.
Step 4: Respond To The Claim And Attend Pretrial Conferences
The defendant has a designated timeframe to respond to the claim. Their response may include an admission, denial, or counterclaim. You must review the response and respond if necessary.
The Court may schedule pretrial conferences to discuss evidence, legal arguments, and potential settlement options. Be prepared to attend these conferences and participate actively.
Step 5: Discovery Process
Both parties can request and exchange relevant documents and information to prepare for trial. Cooperate with the discovery process and provide all requested information promptly.
Step 6: Trial And Judgment
- 6a: Present Evidence at Trial
- If the case proceeds to trial, you (or your lawyer) will present evidence and arguments to the Court. Prepare yourself to answer questions from the judge and opposing counsel.
- 6b: Await the Court’s Decision and Judgment
- The judge will consider all evidence and arguments before issuing a final judgement in favour of the claimant or the defendant. Understand that the process may take time and prepare for any potential outcomes.
7. What Are The Filing Fees For Originating Claims In Singapore?
The filing fees for Originating Claims in Singapore vary depending on the Court where the claim is filed and the amount of money being claimed. Here’s a breakdown:
- Claims up to S$60,000: S$150
- Claims exceeding S$60,000: S$250
- Claims exceeding S$250,000: S$350
Additional fees may apply for:
- Serving the Originating Claim
- Issuing subpoenas
- Filing witness statements
- Attending pretrial conferences
- Applying for specific Court orders
8. What To Do After Filing An Originating Claim?
Once filed, the Court will review your claim for completeness and compliance with procedural requirements.
If accepted, you’ll receive official confirmation, and the case will proceed through various stages mentioned previously in Steps 5 and 6 of this article.
In some instances, the Court may reject your Originating Claim due to various reasons, including:
- Incomplete or inaccurate information
- Failure to meet procedural requirements
- Lack of sufficient evidence
- Unsubstantiated legal basis for the claim
If your claim is rejected, you have the right to:
- Seek clarification from the Court: Understand the reasons for rejection and inquire about potential remedies.
- Amend your claim: Address the issues raised by the Court and re-submit the claim.
- Seek legal advice: Consult a lawyer to assess the viability of appealing the decision or pursuing alternative legal options.
9. What Is The Deadline For Serving An Originating Claim To The Defendant?
Once the Court approves your Originating Claim application, a specific timeframe applies for serving the claim and Statement of Claim (Form 9) to the defendant.
This deadline varies depending on the Court where you or your lawyer filed the claim and the defendant’s location:
- The defendant served in Singapore: 21 days after serving the Originating Claim.
- Defendant served outside Singapore: 5 weeks after the Originating Claim was issued.
- The defendant served in Singapore: 21 days after the Originating Claim was issued.
- Defendant served outside Singapore: 5 weeks after the Originating Claim is issued (unless the Court orders a different time frame based on the Hague Service Convention).
10. What Happens After The Originating Claim Is Served On The Defendant?
Once the Originating Claim and Statement of Claim (Form 9) are served on the defendant, they have a designated timeframe to respond. They will take specific actions based on the merits of the claim and their legal strategy, but here are some potential scenarios:
- If the defendant admits to the claim and agrees to the relief sought, they can file a notice of admission. This may lead to a swift resolution and potential settlement discussions.
- If the defendant denies the claim, they will file a defence statement outlining their arguments and legal basis for contesting the claim. This will trigger the pretrial process and potentially move towards trial.
- The defendant may sometimes file a counterclaim against the claimant, alleging their legal cause of action. This expands the scope of the case and requires both parties to address the additional claims.
- The defendant may initiate settlement discussions directly with the claimant or their lawyer. This can involve negotiating a compromise to resolve the dispute without going to trial.
Request for further information
- If the defendant requires clarification or additional information about the claim, they may request particulars from the claimant. This can delay the proceedings while the information is gathered and provided.
Application to strike out the claim
- If the defendant believes the claim is frivolous or lacks legal merit, they may apply to the Court to strike it out. This can lead to dismissal of the claim if the Court agrees with the defendant’s argument.
Engagement with the legal system
- Regardless of their chosen response, the defendant will likely need to engage with the legal system, including attending pretrial conferences, participating in discovery, and seeking legal representation.
Preparation for trial
- If the case does not settle and proceeds towards trial, the defendant must prepare their defence by gathering evidence, formulating arguments, and potentially engaging in witness preparation.
Compliance with Court orders
- The defendant must comply with all Court orders and deadlines throughout the process to avoid potential sanctions or adverse consequences.
- Once all evidence and arguments have been presented, the Court will issue a final judgement, which may favour the claimant or the defendant or involve a partial resolution.
11. What Is The Difference Between An Originating Claim And An Originating Application?
An Originating Claim is used to commence legal proceedings in civil cases, especially when there are material disputes of fact. This document is addressed to the party being sued and notifies them of the claim against them.
Filing an OC involves submitting the claim, along with a written statement of facts, and then serving it on the defendant.
The filing fees for an Originating Claim vary depending on the claim’s value, with different costs for claims up to $1 million and those exceeding this amount.
Meanwhile, an Originating Application is used for matters of law where the material facts are not disputed.
The law may also require an Originating Application in some cases. The fees for filing an OA also vary, depending on where the Court proceedings commenced and the claim’s value, similar to the Originating Claim.
Types Of Originating Applications In Singapore
- Cover a broad range of non-substantive matters, including:
- Seeking declarations of legal rights and interests.
- Obtaining Court orders for specific purposes (e.g., access to property, medical treatment).
- Approving agreements or settlements reached between parties.
Judicial Management Applications
- Initiate the procedure of placing a financially struggling company under Court supervision to facilitate its rehabilitation and restructuring.
- Require specific financial information and evidence to demonstrate the company’s viability for restructuring.
- Address disputes or issues related to tax assessments and liabilities.
- This may involve seeking adjustments or exemptions from taxes, challenging assessments, or requesting reviews of tax decisions.
Probate and Administration Applications
- Initiate the legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate (e.g.: securing a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration).
- Involve tasks such as identifying and gathering assets, settling debts, and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries.
Divorce Applications Within Three Years of Marriage
- Offer a streamlined process for couples seeking a Divorce within three years of marriage.
- Require specific criteria to be met, including proof of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and absence of children under age 21.
Family Applications (Enforcement of Syariah Court Orders)
- Seek to enforce rulings issued by the Syariah Court in family matters, such as custody arrangements or maintenance payments.
- Require the Originating Application to clearly state the Syariah Court order and the specific action requested for enforcement.
Family Applications (Mental Capacity)
- Address situations where an individual’s mental capacity is in doubt, impacting their ability to make informed decisions.
- It may involve seeking Court orders for the appointment of guardians or deputies to manage their financial and personal affairs.
Family Applications (Guardianship of Infant)
- Seek legal recognition and responsibility for the care and upbringing of a minor child.
- It can involve applications for sole guardianship, joint guardianship, or changes to existing guardianship arrangements.
Family Applications (Division of Matrimonial Assets During Marriage)
- Address the division of matrimonial assets between spouses during a marriage, resolving ownership and distribution disputes.
- Require clear documentation of assets and evidence to support the proposed division.
- Besides the listed types, Originating Applications can be used for various other specialised purposes, such as:
- Adoption proceedings.
- Bankruptcy declarations.
- Company winding-up procedures.
- Specific applications under various statutes and regulations.
Originating claims and Originating Applications can be used for civil proceedings in Singapore. However, they cater to various types of disputes and involve distinct steps.
Originating claims are designed for substantive legal disputes requiring detailed arguments and evidence.
They involve a formal Statement of Claim and a complex procedure with potentially lengthy pretrial stages, making them suitable for resolving substantial and complex legal matters.
On the other hand, originating applications are intended for non-substantive matters where simple documentation suffices.
They offer a faster and less formal process, typically with shorter pretrial procedures. These characteristics make them ideal for resolving simple and less complex legal issues.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Originating Claims In Singapore (Previously Writ Of Summons)
Why Was The Writ Of Summons Changed Into Originating Claims?
The change from “Writ of Summons” to “Originating Claims” is part of an overall update and modernisation of the legal terminology and processes. This change aligns with the broader revisions in the Rules of Court 2021 (ROC 2021), aiming to make legal processes more accessible and understandable to the public.
The updated terminology is a more modern and clearer description of the legal documents and procedures involved in initiating civil actions.
Can I Appeal A Decision Made Through An Originating Claim?
Yes, the deadline can be extended. If the Originating Claim has not been served within its initial 3-month validity period, you can apply to the Court for an extension.
The Court may grant an extension based on the case’s specifics, typically for an additional 3 months, up to a maximum of two times.
What Happens If I Incorrectly File An Originating Claim?
If there are errors in filing an Originating Claim, it may be rejected by the Court. This could involve using the wrong form, not adhering to filing deadlines or missing essential information. In such cases, you may need to refile the claim correctly, which could delay the legal process.
When Is An Originating Application Preferred Over An Originating Claim?
An Originating Application is generally preferred in cases where the matter involves points of law with no substantial dispute of facts. This includes cases like probate matters, certain types of judicial reviews, or applications under specific statutes where the law mandates their use.
Can I File An Originating Application Without Legal Representation?
Yes, individuals can file an Originating Application without a lawyer, but it is advisable to seek legal help as these applications are difficult to handle alone. Missteps in the process can have significant legal implications.
Can I Modify An Original Claim After Filing?
Yes, an OC can typically be amended post-filing, but this requires permission from the Court. The process and acceptability of such amendments depend on the nature of the changes and their impact on the case proceedings.
What Happens If A Defendant Ignores An Originating Claim?
The claimant can apply for a default judgement if a defendant does not respond to an OC. This means the Court may decide in favour of the claimant due to the defendant’s lack of response.
Can I Withdraw An Originating Claim After Filing?
A claimant can withdraw an OC but typically needs to file a notice of discontinuance. Depending on the case’s status, Court permission may be required, and there might be cost implications.