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Introduction to Civil Litigation


A quick reference guide on Civil Litigation in common law jurisdictions.

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A quick reference guide on Civil Litigation in common law jurisdictions.

The guide includes a summary of civil litigation documentation (eg letter before action, writ of summons, statement of claim, notice of writ, affidavit/affirmation, notice to insurer, etc). The guide describes what civil litigation and provides examples of civil action which include:

- contract

- quasi-contract

- tort (including personal injuries claims)

- recovery of land or premises

- claims in equity such as administration of estate of a deceased person, trust, mortgage, specific performance, maintenance of infant, dissolution of partnership, relief against fraud or mistake


- employees’ compensation cases (there is no limit on the amount claimed)

- sex discrimination, disability, race and family status discrimination cases

- matrimonial cases including divorce, maintenance, custody and adoption of children (the Court which handles these types of cases is also known as the Family Court)

It can take a long time to bring a civil case to trial and that most cases do not result in trial. Before a civil case is brought to trial, there may be interlocutory proceedings, held with the purpose of settling some procedural disputes, or dealing with urgent applications to preserve a party's rights. Except in the case of appeals, judicial reviews or applications, a person who commences a proceeding by writ shall be called a ‘Plaintiff’ and a person against whom a proceeding is commenced shall be called a ‘Defendant’.

There are three main ways for the plaintiff to start a civil action:

- engage a lawyer

- seek legal aid (jurisdiction specific)

- bring the Plaintiff’s own proceedings

The guide also covers the locus(standing) of the plaintiff, identifying the plaintiff, statement of claim, writ or originating motion, service and filings, defending a civil action, no defence/settle before trial, trial, appeal and the execution of judgment.

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