If you are having a contractual dispute with another party and have been unable to resolve the issue peacefully and informally, then you may consider suing that party by commencing proceedings against them in a court of law.
Two relevant factors that will influence which court to use when suing someone are:
- the jurisdiction (authority) of the court; and
- the location of the dispute
What Jurisdiction (or Court) will my matter be heard in?
There are many different courts in NSW and Australia that a person can bring a claim in. Some courts only hear cases for specific types of matters: for example, the Family Court of Australia has jurisdiction to hear matters relating to family law disputes. Others will hear different cases depending on the amount of money being disputed.
Generally, for contractual dispute, the three most common courts you will go to are:
- the Local Court;
- the District Court; or
- the Supreme Court
The Local Court
The Local Court is separated into two divisions: the ‘Small Claims’ division and the ‘General’ division.
The Small Claims division can hear claims worth up to $20,000, while the General division has jurisdiction to hear claims up to $100,000 (in some circumstances though, the General Division can hear claims that are up to 20% more than the relevant limit).
The District Court
The District Court generally deals with matters that are worth between $100,000 and $750,000, although in some circumstances there is no limit (such as for claims relating to workplace injuries). If the parties both agree, then the District Court can increase its jurisdictional limit to $1,125,000.
The Supreme Court typically deals with contractual disputes worth more than $750,000, or appeals from the lower courts such as the District Court.
Where will my matter be heard?
In NSW, under the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005 (‘UCPR’), a person can commence proceedings at any location where the court sits. For example, the Local Court sits in over 100 different locations across the state of NSW.
However, the court may decide to change the venue in some circumstances:
- Rule 8.2 of the UCPR says that the court can change the venue if “a fair or unprejudiced trial of a question arising… in connection with any proceedings cannot otherwise be had, or for any other reason it is appropriate for the venue of any proceedings to be changed”
- Section 55 of the Local Court Act 2007 says that “the Court may make an order changing the venue of the proceedings if it thinks it appropriate in the circumstances”
Some factors that the court might take into consideration when deciding a new location are:
- where the plaintiff and defendant are located or conduct business from;
- if the contract was for services, where those services were provided;
- if the contract was for goods, where those goods were delivered;
- where the dispute arose;
- where the contract was entered into; or
- whether the trial might be prejudiced if it occurs in the current location – for example, if there has been pre-trial publicity of the issues in dispute.
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This is not legal advice.