Bringing or Defending a Civil Case
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4. What is a summons for directions (to be made before the commencement of a trial)?

In order to manage the parties' conduct of a civil action and to ensure that all preparations before trial will be conducted in a proper manner (including discovery (disclosure) of documents, exchange of witness statements and exchange of experts' reports (if any)), a hearing will take place before the court so that the court can give the appropriate directions to the parties to prepare the case for trial. An application for such a hearing is called a summons for directions.

At the hearing, the master or judge will normally direct the parties to file and exchange the lists of documents within a specific period of time (if the parties have not yet filed and exchanged their lists of documents at the time of the hearing) and to file and exchange witness statements within a specified period of time. The master or judge will also consider whether any experts' reports are necessary and if so, identify the areas where expert evidence is required and give directions for such experts’ reports to be filed and exchanged within a specified period of time. The master or judge will also deal with any other matters which are necessary to prepare the case for trial.

Once all the directions of the court made at the summons for directions are complied with, the case may be ready for trial. For the steps required to bring the matter to trial, please refer to section VII: How to fix a trial date and what may happen at a trial.

The procedures involved in issuing a summons for directions is different, depending on whether the claim is started in the District Court or the Court of First Instance of the High Court.

a) For proceedings in the Court of First Instance of the High Court

The plaintiff must, within one month after the pleadings are closed, issue a summons for directions seeking the orders (from the court judge) necessary for the conduct of the trial. The form of the summons can be obtained from the High Court Registry or the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants.

b) For proceedings in District Court

Parties may take out a summons for directions (obtainable from the District Court Registry). However, the court will usually issue a notice of hearing after the pleadings are closed for cases where all or one of the parties is a litigant in person (without being represented by a lawyer). The parties will then attend court for the necessary directions for just, expeditious and economical disposal of the action.

(Note: When both parties have set out all their facts in the statement of claim, defence (or defence and counterclaim) and reply to defence (or defence to counterclaim), the pleadings are considered to have been closed.)