The Defendant in both Circuit Court and High Court cases must deliver a “Defence” to the Plaintiff.
If the case is a Circuit Court, case the Defendant must deliver the Defence to the Plaintiff within 10 days after he or she has entered an appearance. If the case is a High Court case, the Defendant must deliver the Defence within 28 days of receiving the Statement of Claim. These time limits are not strict and in most cases, a defence can be delivered after the time has expired.
If the Defendant fails to deliver a Defence, the Plaintiff can apply to Court for “Judgement in Default of Defence”. This means that because the Defendant has failed to send a Defence to the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff may obtain a judgement from the court against the Defendant without the need for a trial.
When you receive a Civil Bill or Statement of Claim you may decide that not only have you done nothing wrong and the claim should not have been brought against you, but that you have a claim against the Plaintiff. In those circumstances, you may wish to include a Counterclaim with your Defence.
There are no set rules about what must be contained in the Defence. The document starts with the title of the proceedings and the record number.
It is up to the Defendant to admit or deny the allegations that the Plaintiff has made in his/her Civil Bill or Statement of Claim. It is also up to the Defendant to state any specific defence that he or she is relying on. For example, if the Defendant is claiming that the Plaintiff’s claim has been brought outside of the time limits, then the Defendant should specifically plead that fact in the Defence.
If the Plaintiff has made a specific allegation and the Defendant fails to deny that allegation in the Defence, it will be assumed that the Defendant is admitting that the allegation is true. For example, if the Plaintiff has claimed in the Statement of Claim that he or she was involved in a road traffic accident and the Defence fails to deny that the road traffic accident occurred, then it is assumed that the Defendant is admitting that the road traffic accident happened. It is not then necessary for the Plaintiff to prove to the judge that the accident occurred.
On the other hand, when the Defendant specifically denies a claim that the Plaintiff has made, he or she is putting the Plaintiff “on proof” of the allegation. This means that the Plaintiff must prove that the claim is true. For example, if the Defence specifically denies that the road traffic accident occurred, the Plaintiff must prove it by introducing evidence in court.
If the Defendant wishes to make a claim against the Plaintiff, this can be done by adding a “Counterclaim” section to the Defence. This must clearly set out the allegations that the Defendant is making against the Plaintiff and what the Defendant seeks from the court.