When your company is served with court documents commencing a legal proceeding, your company will have to take certain steps within stipulated timelines. These are crucial steps, the failure of which will have swift negative consequences. These administrative steps include informing the Court that you are disputing the claim, and filing a statement setting out your defence. The failure to adhere to these administrative steps, would entitle the plaintiff to obtain a default judgment. A default judgment can then be enforced against the company’s property, among other enforcement proceedings the plaintiff can undertake.

If the court proceeding is in the County Court, an appearance will have to be entered within 10 days of being served with the Writ if the business is based in Victoria, and within 21 days if the business is in another part of Australia. It would be best to engage a lawyer as soon as possible so that your lawyer would be able to assess the matter and enter an appearance on your company’s behalf.  Subsequently, a Defence will have to be filed in response to any Statement of Claim filed by the plaintiff, within 30 days after being served with the Statement of Claim. In the Magistrate’s Court, a Notice of Defence will have to be served within 21 days of being served with the Complaint.

Invariably, the statement of claim is served with the Writ at the start of the court proceeding. On occasion, especially for urgent cases to prevent time bar issues for example, a Writ may simply be filed and served with an indorsement. An indorsement is a paragraph or paragraphs, setting out the claim briefly. In such cases, a defence needs to be filed within 30 days from the day appearance was entered.

It is important to view Writs and other court documents seriously and swiftly. While it is possible to set aside a default judgment, it will add legal costs, take time and there is the inherent risk that the judgment will not be set aside. Such risks and uncertainties can best be avoided if swift action is taken when served with court documents.

If your company has been served with court documents and you require assistance contact Rankin Business Lawyers for practical, on-point commercial legal guidance.

Vik Pillay
Senior Associate (Admitted in Australia, Singapore and England & Wales)