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Brief Counsel

Cheaper debt recovery and contract enforcement

07 October 2009

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From 1 November 2009, it will be cheaper to recover debts and enforce claims worth less than $200,000.

On 1 November 2009, the new District Court Rules come into force. They provide a range of proceedings for resolving disputes and will radically overhaul the way District Court cases are run. Parties are encouraged to exchange their key arguments and evidence quickly so that they can reach settlement with minimal court involvement. Parties that don't settle will be allocated a procedure that is proportionate to the complexity, size and value of their dispute.

The key changes:

  • most cases will follow the procedure below, including 90 minute judicial settlement conferences and the new procedures of short and simplified trials

  • the initial claims and document exchanges will occur with minimal court involvement

  • the traditional statement of claim procedure will now only be available for specifically excluded proceedings (such as defamation and admiralty cases) or with leave for urgent or precedent-setting cases where settlement could never be appropriate

  • debt collection will primarily be default judgment based – summary judgment is the 'sacrificial lamb' of the new rules

  • interlocutory applications will be strictly controlled and mostly unavailable without leave

  • discovery largely disappears and parties will no longer be required to disclose documents adverse to their case, and

  • there will be a new range of "fill-in-the-blanks" user-friendly forms, available on the internet.

The new District Court procedure

District Court Procedure

Making the most of the new rules

The new rules mean that proceedings will mostly be quicker and cheaper. Parties should have a clear indication of the issues in the proceeding and their respective chances of success within 60-90 working days.

The threshold for bringing cost-effective claims in the District Court will be lowered. Defendants are less able to delay and the balance of costs in the proceeding will shift forward to the simpler information capsules from the traditional discovery process.

Since 1 August, the Disputes Tribunal's monetary jurisdiction has also been extended. The Tribunal can now hear claims up to $15,000 or $20,000 with the consent of all parties to the proceeding.

Our thanks to Daniel Street for preparing this article. For more information, please contact the lawyers featured. 

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