Debt Recovery & Litigation

Small Claims Debt Recovery

Civil claims under the amount of $10,000 are filed in the Small Claims Division of the Local Court of New South Wales. The conduct of those claims is governed by the Local Court Act 2007, the practice notes issued under the Act and the Local Court Rules 2009.

The conduct of proceedings in the small claims division are less formal than proceedings in other jurisdictions. The practice note of the Court stating as a general principle that the conduct of matters in the small claims division is to be conducted with as little formality and technicality as the proper consideration of the proceedings permit. Although the proceedings are conducted with as little formality and technically as the property consideration of the proceedings permit it should not be overlooked that the fundamental elements of a civil claim are not to be overlooked. 

A civil claim of whatever amount must be founded on a cause of action at law, whether that be breach of contract, quantum meriut, negligence or statute. The cause of action must be stated clearly so that the opponent can properly understand the case against them and be supported by credible evidence. A plaintiff, being the person who commencing the action, bears the onus of proof in the proceedings. It is a complete answer to the claim for a defendant to plead 'no evidence' to the cause of action.

Two further differences in proceedings commenced in the Small Claims Division as opposed to proceedings in the General Division, or other Courts, is the conduct of the hearing and costs.

Unlike many other forums the hearing of a Small Claims Division matter proceeds without the cross examination of witnesses. Instead each party is required to exchange written witness statements two weeks (or otherwise directed) before the hearing. Those statements must contain all the evidence to be relied on, for it is rare for the Assessor to permit additional or late statements. The reliability of those witness statements is a matter of the Assessor hearing the matter. Assessment hearings are often allocated 30-60 minutes to allow each party to state its case with a decision being given by the Assessor on the day, unless further consideration of the facts or law warrant otherwise. 

At the time of giving judgment it is also usual for the Court to order the unsuccessful party to pay the successful party's legal costs, but only if that party is legally represented, and only up to a maximum amount, which is quite different to the usual costs orders in higher Courts.

Prime Lawyers appears regularly in hearings before the Assessor in the Small Claims Division in various Courts of New South Wales. We understand the process and are acutely aware of the costs limitations to ensure the case is conducted as efficiently as possible. If you have a civil claim of any amount and would like to speak with one of our civil claims lawyers then get in touch with your nearest Prime Lawyers office.     

We have debt recovery and litigation lawyers located at Sydney, Parramatta, Chatswood, Sutherland and Wollongong.    

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