Dispute Resolution

District Court Rules Revised – A Quick Summary of Key Changes

On 1 July 2014 new District Courts Rules came into force which overhaul the previous process which had existed since 2009. The new Rules closely mirror the procedure in the High Court and dramatically simplify the civil claim process.

Key changes include the ability to apply for summary judgment from the outset of the proceeding, as opposed to the 2009 Rules which required a person to go through the bulk of the claim process before obtaining judgment. The documents required to initiate proceedings are also simpler. Now a plaintiff/claimant need only file a notice of proceeding, a statement of claim and a list of documents relied upon.

Once these three documents are prepared, they are then filed in Court and served upon the defendant who has 25 working days to prepare, file and serve a statement of defence. If a statement of defence is served, then the matter is set down for a case management conference with a judge where directions are given and memoranda are filed outlining issues such as whether initial disclosure has been provided, any further discovery issues, whether the matter is suitable for a “short trial” and dealing with any interlocutory applications. If no statement of defence is served, then judgment can be obtained.

The modes of trial remain from the 2009 Rules, being a short trial, simplified trial or a full trial. Short trials follow a strict structure which limits the amount of time each party has to present their case and examine witnesses. It is also limited to one day. A simplified trial is one where the complexity of the issues requires a duration of trial not likely to exceed three days and the amount of money involved is more than modest. It can also involve expert witnesses. Lastly, a full trial is used where matters are sufficiently complex and the sums involved sufficiently large to justify a larger allocation of court time and resources.

The overall thrust of the changes made by these Rules is to ensure that they closely mirror those of the High Court, and also to simplify the procedure for making a civil claim. Useful aspects of the 2009 Rules have been retained, such as the list of essential documents and the modes of trial. These aspects should enable parties to distil the crux of their dispute, in turn minimising expense and hopefully leading to a quick resolution.

Our team at Fortune Manning appears regularly in the District Court and has an extensive knowledge of the new rules and procedures. If you are considering a civil claim, or simply want some independent advice to assist you in understanding the process involved, please do not hesitate to contact us, we are happy to help.