We would always recommend that people would seek legal advice from a solicitor/legal practitioner if they receive any legal document.
As a 'respondent' you must decide if you are going to defend the case or if you are not going to defend the case.
If the respondent is going to admit they were wrong:
- Contact must be made with the claimant / claimant’s solicitor within 10 days or receipt of the Civil Bill to agree a settlement and prevent the matter going before the Court.
If the respondent is going to defend the case:
- When the defendant receives the Civil Bill, they should enter an appearance within 10 days.
- Entering an appearance is a very important step as it is indicates in writing that the defendant intends to defend the proceedings. The time limit is not strict and, in most cases, an appearance can be entered after the time has expired.
To enter an appearance, the defendant must lodge an Entry of appearance form at the Court office. A copy of the form must also be given to the plaintiff's solicitor.
The defendant must deliver a defence to the plaintiff within 10 days of entering an appearance. This means the defendant must send a notice called Defence to the plaintiff’s solicitor. The 10-day time limit is not strict and in most cases, a defence can be delivered after the time has expired.
It is up to the defendant to admit or deny the allegations that the plaintiff has made in their Civil Bill. It is also up to the defendant to state any specific defence that they are relying on.
If the plaintiff has made a specific allegation and the defendant fails to deny that allegation in the Defence notice, it will be assumed that the defendant is admitting that the allegation is true.
When the defendant specifically denies a claim that the plaintiff has made, they are putting the plaintiff on proof of the allegation. This means that the plaintiff must prove that the claim is true. For example, if the defendant specifically denies that the road traffic accident occurred, the plaintiff must prove it by introducing evidence in court.
When a defendant receives a Civil Bill, they may decide that not only have they done nothing wrong and the claim should not have been brought against them, but that they have a claim against the plaintiff. In those circumstances, they may wish to include a counterclaim with their defence.
To make a claim against the plaintiff, a section titled Counterclaim is added to the Defence notice. This must clearly set out the allegations that the defendant is making against the plaintiff and what the defendant seeks from the court.
The defendant must lodge the Defence notice with counterclaim at the Court office. A copy of the form must also be given to the plaintiff's solicitor.
Notice for particulars
A defendant, at any time after being served with a Civil Bill and before delivery of a defence, or a plaintiff, at any time after delivery of a defence or counterclaim, may apply to the other party by a notice in writing for particulars. A notice for particulars is simply a formal request for more information about the case. It contains specific questions or requests.
A request for copies of all or any of the documents upon which the action, defence or counterclaim is founded is made on a Notice requiring copies of documents. A request for information is made on a Notice requiring further information. The requested particulars should be delivered within 7 days of receiving the notice.
Case progression is a case management system where specific issues in a dispute are identified and efforts are made to either resolve or narrow those issues prior to trial.
The purpose of case progression is to ensure that the proceedings for trial are prepared in a manner which is fair, efficient and likely to keep the costs as low as possible.
A direction that the proceedings be subject to case progression may be given by the County Registrar or the judge where they are satisfied that it would be appropriate to do so. The plaintiff or the defendant can also issue a motion for case progression where they wish to engage in the process.
The County Registrar issues a summons to attend a case progression hearing with the Registrar, giving not less than 21 days’ notice.
Not later than 7 days before the hearing, the plaintiff must file at the Circuit Court office an indexed book of pleadings exchanged between the parties and serve a copy of the index on the defendant.
At the case progression hearing, the County Registrar will establish what steps remain to be taken to prepare the case for trial and fix a timetable for the completion of preparation of the case for trial.
The Registrar may make orders or give directions with respect to pleadings and other matters.