Bringing or Defending a Civil Case
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7. How can I start a civil action against another party in the District Court or the High Court?

If it is a monetary claim for a sum of not exceeding $50,000, please refer to the section regarding the Small Claims Tribunal. For claims in relation to employment disputes (excluding employees' compensation/work-related injuries' claims), please go to the Labour Tribunal. For other kinds of civil action, you should go to the District Court or the High Court. (Please go back to question 3 and question 4 for the areas of authority of these two courts).

In civil proceedings, t he party who sues is usually called "the plaintiff" and the party being sued is usually called "the defendant".

Before submitting any documents to the court to start a lawsuit, it is advisable for the plaintiff to issue a letter (formally called the "demand letter ") to the defendant asking for rectification, compensation or repayment (as the case may be) within a certain period of time (usually ranges from 7 to 14 days). If a demand letter is issued, the plaintiff must keep a copy of the demand letter as it will be one piece of evidence that the plaintiff will have to submit to the court later. If the defendant fails to comply with the requirements stipulated in the demand letter, or does not give any reply, the plaintiff may then go to the court to start a lawsuit.

To start a lawsuit, the plaintiff has to apply for the court to issue a document called a writ of summons or an originating summons , which then has to be served on (i.e. delivered to) the defendant. These two modes are the most common modes for commencing an action in the District Court or the Court of First Instance of the High Court. You can obtain the court forms for a writ of summons or an originating summons from the Registries of the High Court and the District Court, and from the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants.

For more information about these two kinds of summons, please go to the next question.

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