A civil lawsuit in The Bahamas can be commenced in the Supreme Court in a few different ways, such as by a writ of summons, or an originating summons, or an originating motion or a petition. (Rules of the Supreme Court, O. 5, r. 1.) By and large, the majority of civil court actions in the Supreme Court are commenced by writ of summons. This article describes the process for filing a writ of summons.
Writs of summons must be used to begin lawsuits that include tort claims (such as negligence or fraud), except for trespass to land. They also must be used for claims involving breaches of duty resulting in death or personal injury or claims involving patent infringement. For other types of claims, either one of the other means for beginning a lawsuit may be used, or the plaintiff can choose whether a writ of summons or an originating summons is more appropriate. (O. 5, r. 4(1).) Notably, it is more common to use an originating summons for claims in which the sole issue to be determined is the interpretation of a statute or some other legal document. (O. 5, r. 4(2).)
The writ of summons must include either a statement of claim or “a concise statement of the nature of the claim made or the relief or remedy required in the action” (O. 6, r. 2.) It must list any representative capacities under which a plaintiff sues or a defendant is sued, such as if a defendant is being sued as trustee of a trust. (O. 6, r. 3.) The plaintiff's or plaintiff's attorney's name and address must appear on the writ. If a writ is issued against someone who resides outside the country, special procedural rules must be followed. (O. 6, r. 5-6.)
A writ is valid for 12 months from the date of issue during which time the plaintiff should attempt to serve the defendant with it. (O. 6, r. 7.) If the writ is not served within 12 months, the plaintiff must apply to renew the writ before it can be served on the defendant. Service must be made upon the defendant in person or if he has authorized his attorney to accept service on his behalf, on the defendant's attorney. (O. 10, r. 1.) If the defendant is a company, service is carried out by leaving the writ at the registered office of the company. In certain cases, an agent for an overseas principal may be served in place of the principal, upon court approval. (O. 10, r. 2.) In other cases, service on the principal outside of the jurisdiction is acceptable. (O. 11.)
As to the statement of claim, if it is not included in the writ then it must be served on the defendant either with the writ or else not later than 14 days after the defendant enters an appearance to the writ. (O. 18, r. 1.) The statement of claim must “state specifically the relief or remedy which the plaintiff claims”, although the details of costs claimed need not be listed. (O. 18, r. 15.) Each cause of action stated in the statement of claim must also be listed in the writ, unless the cause of action arises from the same facts as already mentioned in the writ. However, the statement of claim may extend, modify, or alter claims made in the writ.
If you are thinking about filing a lawsuit in The Bahamas, you should consult a civil litigation attorney who can advise you how to proceed. To find out more, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.