Understanding the Law
February 24, 2006
Taking care of documents served on you

The court’s bailiff or process server approaches you. He identifies himself and tells you that he has a document to serve on you. If you refuse to accept it he could leave it on your car or stick it on your house. Once he has served it on you it is constructive notice of service and you have a duty to respond to it. The bailiff would then report to the person who gave him the document to serve. He would be required to sign to an affidavit of service stating the date and time when the document was served on you. This affidavit of service is important and the judge will ask for it when the case is called up and you are not present.{{more}}

I cannot cease to stress the importance of responding to court documents, if it is even to indicate that you are admitting to the claim or not contesting it. Ignoring documents could be to your own detriment. As soon as you are served the documents you need to take them as quickly as possible to a lawyer if you intend to be represented in court because of the time limits that are required. If you feel that you do not need representation you have to take the documents to the High Court office which is now housed in the Corea’s building.

The document that is served on you would give you some information about acknowledgement of service. If it is a civil claim form you would have to acknowledge service at the High Court Office. In most civil matters the documents that have been served on you would contain a standard form for the acknowledgement of service and one for your defence. You have 14 days (28 days for overseas parties) from the time of service in which to acknowledge service and 28 days (42 days for overseas parties) to put forth your defence.

If service is not acknowledged then the other party would assume that you are not contesting the matter. That claimant could make a request to the court for a default judgment. A default judgment means that you are required to pay the sum of money that the claimant has asked for in the claim form. Some persons disregard the documents that were served on them and become concerned only when a default judgment is served in the matter. Depending on the circumstances you might be able to have the judgment set aside but you must have a strong case and have acted without delay after the default judgment was served on you.

Not only matters in the civil court have time limits. If you are summoned by the magistrate court to appear as witness or defendant you have an obligation to meet the court date given on the document. Failure to turn up on the day scheduled for the hearing of the case could lead to the issuance of a bench warrant against you. This means that on the next court date given the police could take you into custody to make sure that you meet your court date. Magistrate courts start at 9 o’clock in the morning and you have to be there at that time. It is important to note that if you are the one bringing the claim and you fail to attend court your matter could be thrown out for want of prosecution.