The District Court has jurisdiction to deal with civil claims up to $200,000. The Rules relating to such claims were updated from 1 July 2014. The effect of the changes is to reinstate many of the formalities and procedures that applied until 2009, and to once again align the processes relating to claims in the District Court with processes relating to claims in the High Court.
Two significant features of the changes are the re-introduction of formal legal pleadings and the re-instatement of the summary judgement procedure at an early stage of proceedings.
Legal pleadings are the documents that outline each party’s claims or defences. These pleasing are important in clearly and succinctly identifying to the Court at the outset the facts that are in issue, the legal actions and defences that are to be relied upon, and the relief that is sought. Parties whose pleading do not comply with the specific pleading rules now back in force will risk having to amend their pleadings, or having to provide further particulars, or perhaps even having their pleading struck out. They also risk a costs award against them.
The re-introduction of the summary judgement procedure at the commencement of the claim will allow for the early resolution of plaintiff claims in which there is no defence available to the defendant. Similarly, it will allow for the early resolution of defendant claims in which none of the plaintiff’s causes of action can succeed.
In fact, the new summary judgement procedure is an improvement on what existed before 2009 in that it allows the plaintiff to apply for summary judgment as of right not just at the time of filing its claim but also up to the expiry of ten working days after the service of the defendant’s statement of defence. This will mean that plaintiffs need not incur the extra time and expense associated with a summary application until it knows whether the defendant will defence the claim and, if so, on what grounds.
Two things that have been retained in the new Rules are the short trial and simplified trial processes introduced in 2009. Both these processes provide litigants with greater flexibility and greater scope for costs-savings that the full trial option that was the default trial process before 2009.
If you are contemplating bringing a civil claim, or if a claim has been brought against you, it is important that you seek legal advice at an early stage. We can help you to identity the relevant issues, advise you regarding options and strategies and, if appropriate, negotiate with the other party on your behalf. If court proceedings are required, we can help you prepare the necessary court documents and we can appear in court for you at every stage of the process.
If you have any queries about any of the matters set out here, or if you want help at any stage, please do not hesitate to contact us.