VII. What kinds of applications may be made to court before the commencement of a trial?
"Interlocutory proceedings" are proceedings that deal with the rights of the parties (plaintiff and defendant) in the interval between the commencement of the civil action and its final determination (i.e. before the court delivers the final judgment). One of the main functions is to ensure that the matter proceeds expeditiously and properly to trial. A party usually takes interlocutory proceedings to:
- apply to the court for an extension of time for submitting certain documents;
- seek directions from the court regarding the conduct of the case;
- compel the other party to comply with the rules of the court or the court's directions; or
- apply to the court to grant such interim relief or remedy (e.g. an interim payment/compensation or injunction) as may be just or convenient.
Some common interlocutory applications are listed below.
- Application for extension of time for complying with certain directions under the rules of court or a court order. For example, the plaintiff may apply (with substantial reasons) to extend the deadline for filing a reply to a defence.
- Application for further and better particulars (more detailed information) of the other party's pleadings.
- Application for striking out a particular pleading or part of the pleading of the other party. The applying party may rely on the grounds that the other party's pleading (i) discloses no reasonable cause of action or defence, as the case may be; (ii) is scandalous, frivolous or vexatious; (iii) may prejudice, embarrass or delay the fair trial of the action; or (iv) is otherwise an abuse of the process of the court.
- Application for amendment to the pleadings. The plaintiff and the defendant may each amend their own pleadings once before the close of pleadings (note), without the court's prior permission. Further amendments require the permission of the court. For an amendment made by one party without the court's permission, the other party shall have 14 days (after receiving the first party's amended pleading) to amend his own pleading. For an amendment that requires the court's permission, the court will specify the time for the other party to amend his own pleading.
(Note: When both parties have set out all their facts in the statement of claim, defence (or defence and counterclaim) and reply to defence (or defence to counterclaim), the pleadings are considered to have been closed.)
- Application for documents to be disclosed from the other party. For more details, please go to another section – discovery (disclosure) of documents.
- Interlocutory applications can also be made by parties to a civil action to: (i) preserve a party's rights before trial, or (ii) to dispose of or to settle a civil action before the parties have to attend a full trial. You can find more information concerning these two matters on questions 5 to 12 below.
It must be noted that some interlocutory proceedings involve technical issues and arguments. It is not advisable to start such proceedings without legal advice. The court does not approve of the misuse of interlocutory procedure, which only wastes time and money. Parties are able to obtain justice from the court more expeditiously and economically without unnecessary applications before the commencement of the trial.
Interlocutory proceedings and interim court orders (Q.1-4)
Applications to preserve a party's rights before the commencement of a trial (Q.5-10)
Disposing of or settling a civil action before proceeding to a trial (Q.11-14)