Civil claims can cover a wide range of matters. The most common types of civil claims are claims for debts (such as money owing on loans or under contracts) or claims for damages (such as for money claimed for repairing a car or for personal injuries following a road accident).
Some types of civil claims, such as residential tenancies, unfair dismissals, bankruptcy, copyright and planning and development, are dealt with by special courts or tribunals . This chapter does not deal with the procedure in these special courts and tribunals.
In this chapter, unless otherwise stated, the procedure for making a claim is that which applies in the Magistrates Court Civil (Minor Claims) Division. For additional information about minor civil claims, see DEBT and ACCIDENTS AND INJURIES, Motor vehicle accidents.
In which court is a civil claim started?
The amount of money or damages being claimed usually determines the Court in which a claim should be started. Under the the monetary limits for the types of claims which courts can deal with are [Magistrates Court Act 1991 ss 3 and 8]:
- Up to $25 000 Magistrates Court Civil (Minor Claims) Division
- $25 001 - $100 000 Magistrates Court Civil (General Claims) Division
- Over $100 000 District Court Civil Division.
Claims can also be made in the Supreme Court, but there are cost penalties under the Supreme Court Civil Rules 2006 [r 263] which can apply if the amount of the judgment awarded by the Supreme Court falls below a certain amount. The amount depends on the type of claim (for claims arising from motor vehicle accidents, at least $150 000 must be awarded to avoid costs penalties; for defamation claims, $25 000 must be awarded; and for other claims, $75 000). There are also penalties if the amount awarded is less than an offer of settlement filed with the court and not accepted [see r 188].
The procedures that are followed in the District Court and the Supreme Court are very nearly the same as each other. Whilst there are many similarities with the procedural steps in all of the Courts, generally the procedures have been simplified in the Magistrates Court.
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