What is a Writ of Summons (WOS)?
A writ is “an order issued by a legal authority with administrative or juridicial powers, typically a court.” Essentially, it refers to a document that has legal force and legal consequences, if not complied with.
A “writ of summons” is a type of writ and is issued to begin civil proceedings. The writ is issued by the plaintiff, or the party suing, to the defendant(s). It requires the defendant(s) to enter an appearance in court if the defendant wishes to defend the claim. If the defendant does not enter an appearance in Court or file a defence in time as set out in the writ, judgment in default may be entered against the defendant.
Formalities and Features of a Writ of Summons
A Writ of Summons must be filed by the plaintiff, either through solicitors or personally, in Court, as the first step in civil proceedings. After the Court accepts the filing, it must be served by the plaintiff on the defendant. This happens when the writ is delivered to the defendant, or the defendant collects it.
The writ remains valid for six months from the date of issue, if it is to be served on a defendant within Singapore, and for 12 months from the date of issue if it is to be served on a defendant abroad. If the writ is issued by the Court but has not been served on the defendant within this period, it becomes invalid and must be renewed by the Court.
Once the writ has been validly served on the defendant, the defendant has eight days to enter an appearance if he wishes to defend himself in the dispute. This is an important step to take if a Writ of Summons has been served on you. If the defendant fails to enter an appearance within eight days, the plaintiff has the option of entering a “default judgment”. If the Court approves the default judgment, the defendant would be deemed to have automatically ‘lost’ the suit, somewhat similar to a forfeit, and judgment can be entered against the defendant for the appropriate reliefs claimed by the plaintiff. Although there are options to set aside such a judgment, it is often time-consuming and costly.
If the defendant enters an appearance during the stipulated time period, the suit continues and parties must comply with timelines to file pleadings.
The defendant must also note to file the defence within twenty two days of the Statement of Claim being validly served on the defendant.
If you are suing
Before a Writ of Summons is issued, it must contain a statement of claim, or a concise statement of the nature of the claim made or the relief or remedy required in the action. An official sample of a Writ of Summons is available online, as well as a step-by-step guide to filing writs as provided by the Supreme Court of Singapore website. A statement of claim issued with the Writ of Summons, can and often does contain the following details:
- Identity of the plaintiff(s) and the defendant(s);
- The relationship between the parties;
- The relevant obligations (which the plaintiff(s) claims to have been breached), i.e. the core of the dispute;
- The material facts of the dispute;
- The losses suffered by the plaintiff(s) due to the breach; and
- The relief claimed by the plaintiff(s).
Issuing a Writ of Summons is imperative in beginning a civil dispute in Court as it notifies both the Court and the defendant(s) that you wish to bring a claim against the defendant(s). It also outlines the details of the claim.
If you are being sued
The most important step to take if you are served a Writ of Summons is to enter an appearance within eight days if you are residing in Singapore at the time, and within 21 days if you are abroad. To do this, file an appearance with the court and simultaneously, serve a Memorandum of Appearance on the plaintiff.
Pursuant to this, you should prepare your defence and file and serve a counterclaim, if you wish. The defence is a document setting out why you should not be liable for the relief claimed by the plaintiff. You should serve your defence on the plaintiff and it may include your counterclaim.
Processes After the Writ is Served
Once all the above steps have been completed by both parties, the pretrial processes will begin. This may include mediation, settlement offers, interlocutory applications etc. This would vary on the parties and the issue(s) at hand.
In conclusion, the Writ of Summons is simply a court document that is served by the plaintiff on the defendant and requires the defendant to appear in court to dispute the claim, or risk judgement being entered against him.
Pinsler, Principles of Civil Procedure (Academy Publishing, 2013) at 16.009-16.021.
 Pinsler, Principles of Civil Procedure (Academy Publishing, 2013) at 16.025.
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This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to a practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.