District Court procedures
In the District Court, the person who is bringing the case, that is, the person who is suing, is known as the claimant. The person who is being sued is known as the respondent.
To commence proceedings, that is, to start a legal action, the claimant’s solicitor prepares and serves a claim notice on the respondent. The respondent’s solicitor responds with an appearance and defence to show that they intend to defend the case.
They may also include in the appearance and defence a statement of counterclaim if they believe they have a claim against the claimant.
A claim notice is generally issued to commence proceedings in the District Court. Usually a claim notice is prepared by the claimant's solicitor. The claim notice must then be filed for issuing and the stamp duty paid at the District Court office.
A particular type of claim notice, known as a personal injuries summons, is used where you have suffered personal injuries.
The claim notice must contain the following information:
- A description of the parties. The notice must state the full name, address, occupation, solicitor’s details and address for service of documents for the claimant and for the respondent (where possible).
- A statement of the claim set out in numbered paragraphs. The notice must clearly and concisely set out the allegations that are being made by the claimant and the amount or other remedy being sought. It must contain a list of all correspondence and other documents on which the claim relies. It should clearly indicate to the respondent that they have a case to answer.
- The notice must recite the appropriate District Court area in which the claim is being brought.
- The notice must set out that, if the respondent wishes to admit the claim, they should contact the claimant within 10 days of service of the notice to agree payment of the claim and costs. The proceedings will not then be continued.
- The notice must explain what steps the respondent must take if they wish to dispute the claim.
- The notice must be signed by the claimant or their solicitor.
Serving the notice
The District Court clerk will issue the claim notice to the solicitor for service on the respondent. There are 2 ways to serve the claim notice:
- By hand (also known as personal service)
- By registered prepaid post
A copy of the notice should be given to the respondent personally. If attempts to serve the respondent personally have been unsuccessful, a copy of the notice can be given to the respondent’s spouse, civil partner, child (if they live with the respondent), employee or agent at the respondent’s last known residence or workplace, as long as that person is not under 16 years of age.
A copy of the notice may be sent by registered prepaid post to the respondent's last known residence or place of business.
When a respondent receives a claim notice they must choose whether or not to defend the case.
If you are the respondent and you wish to admit that you were wrong and prevent the case from going to court, you must contact the claimant or the claimant’s solicitor within 10 days of receiving the claim notice to agree payment of the claim and any costs.
If you believe that the claimant is not entitled to the damages being sought and you wish to defend the case in court, you must:
- Serve an appearance and defence on the claimant or the claimant’s solicitor and
- File a copy of the appearance with the District Court clerk
Appearance and defence content
The appearance and defence states:
- The District Court area
- The names of the claimant and respondent
- The respondent’s details
- That the respondent "intends to defend this claim notice"
- A statement of the grounds of defence, set out in numbered paragraphs
The grounds of defence must state which of the facts in the claimant’s statement of claim are admitted, not admitted or denied and the reasons for denying the fact. It must contain a list of all correspondence and other documents on which the respondent will rely in a trial. If a counterclaim is being made, a notice and statement of counterclaim must also be included.
The appearance and defence must be dated and signed by the respondent or their solicitor.
You can find a copy of an appearance and defence (general) on the Courts Service website.
Serving the appearance and defence
The appearance and defence must be sent to the claimant within 28 days of receiving the claim notice, unless you request further information on the claim being made (see Further Particulars section below). The claimant and respondent agree to longer period. Evidence of this agreement must also be filed with the District Court clerk.
If you do not send it in time, then the claimant can apply to the court for judgment in default. This means that because you have not shown your intention to defend the case, you are taken to have admitted the claim against you. There will be no hearing – the court may simply make an order for judgment against you.
When you receive a claim notice, you may decide that not only have you done nothing wrong and the claim should not have been brought against you, but the claimant has actually caused you damage. In those circumstances, you may wish to bring a claim against the claimant for damages.
To make a claim against the claimant (called a counterclaim) you must include a notice and statement of counterclaim in the appearance and defence which must be filed with the District Court clerk and served on the claimant.
The claimant will then have a similar opportunity to file a defence to the counterclaim.
Content of counterclaim
The notice of counterclaim must state that the respondent counterclaims against the claimant.
The statement of counterclaim must be set out in numbered paragraphs. It must clearly and concisely set out the allegations that are being made by the respondent and the amount or other remedy being sought. It must contain a list of all correspondence and other documents on which the counterclaim relies.
At any time before or when serving an appearance and defence, the respondent can apply to the claimant on a notice requiring copy documents for a copy of any or all of the documents listed in the statement of claim.
The respondent can also apply to the claimant on a notice requiring further particulars for further particulars on specified matters in the statement of claim to be provided. If further particulars have been requested, the respondent may serve and file an amended defence not later than 28 days after receipt of the further particulars.
Similarly, within 28 days of receiving the defence the claimant may apply to the respondent for copies of all or any of the documents listed in the defence and for further particulars.
Setting down for trial
When the appearance and defence have been served and filed by the respondent, the claimant can serve notice of trial on the respondent. On occasion, however, other applications are necessary before the action can be set down for trial. These applications are known as interlocutory applications.
Unless otherwise agreed, not less than 10 days’ notice of trial must be given. The notice must be filed with the District Court clerk without delay following service.
If the claimant fails to serve notice of trial with 10 days of receiving the respondent’s defence, the respondent can serve notice of trial on the claimant. Alternatively, the respondent can apply to the Court by notice of motion to dismiss the claim for want of prosecution.
Whoever is filing the notice of trial must at the same time file with the clerk, for use by the judge:
- A set of copies of the pleadings, including particulars, and any affidavits in the case, in chronological sequence
- A set of copies of any correspondence relied on by either party, in chronological sequence
- Copies of any other documents they are directed to file
They may also be directed to file a completed case management questionnaire.
In general, the claim is set down for trial at the next available sitting following the notice period.
The stamp duty that must be paid when a claim notice is issued is as follows:
|Value of claim||Stamp duty|
|Debt up to €5,000||€25|
|Debt over €5,000 and up to €10,000||€70|
|Debt over €10,000 or any other claim where general damages are sought||€80|
The fee for filing a counterclaim at the District Court office is €15. The Courts Service website has information on other District Court fees.
Your solicitor will charge fees for their services but these may be recoverable if you win your case.