Civil Law in New South Wales

Civil Lawyers in New South Wales

In New South Wales, civil disputes are dealt with either through the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), through alternative dispute resolution, or through the court system.

The New South Wales civil courts have jurisdiction over matters relating to debt recovery, damages from a motor vehicle accidents, property not returned, services paid for but not provided, and loan agreements. Civil cases involving tenancy issues, decisions on guardianship, dividing fences, motor vehicles, building disputes, and consumer disputes are all dealt with by NCAT.

Many areas of New South Wales civil law have their own legislation setting out where proceedings should be commenced, and what course of action can be taken. The value of a claim will also determine which jurisdiction the matter should be heard in.

NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal

NCAT has four divisions. These are:

  • the Administrative and Equal Opportunity Division
  • the Consumer and Commercial Division
  • the Guardianship Division, and
  • the Occupational Division.

To commence proceedings in NCAT you will need to file the appropriate application form, setting out the orders that you are seeking, the reasons why those orders should be made, and an outline of the dispute.

The type of orders that NCAT can make are listed on the application forms and are relevant to that particular matter. For matters relating to Home Building and Strata and Community Scheme disputes, the parties must participate in dispute resolution prior to lodging an Application with NCAT. All other matters are listed for conciliation after the application has been filed. If conciliation is successful, then consent orders will be made; otherwise, the matter will be set down for hearing.

If the order involves a party being awarded money, the party will need to enforce the order through the courts. This is done by obtaining a certified copy of the order and filing it in the court with the appropriate jurisdiction.

Local Court Small Claims

Small claims involving an amount of $20,000 or less can be dealt with by the Local Court of NSW Small Claims Division.

A small claim can be started by filing a statement of claim in the Local Court and serving a copy on the other party. A filing fee of $149 for an individual or $298 for a corporation will need to paid. The defendant will then decide how to respond to the claim. They may pay the amount sought, settle the dispute out of court, or file a defence. If the defendant does not respond to the claim within 28 days, the plaintiff may seek a default judgment.

Local Court General Claims

A civil claim for more than $20,000 and less than $100,000 (or $120,000 in limited circumstances)  can be dealt with in the Local Court General Claims Division.

A matter is started by filing a statement of claim and serving it on the defendant, who then files a defence. The matter will then be listed for a directions call-over. At the directions call-over, a magistrate will decide how the matter should proceed. It may be adjourned for an arbitration hearing, referred to mediation, or dismissed.

District Court and Supreme Court

In New South Wales, if a person wants to pursue a civil claim for more than $100,000 (or $120,000 in limited circumstances), they must do so in the District Court or Supreme Court.  

The District Court deals with all motor accident cases and with civil matters involving up to $1,250,000. It also deals with superannuation and workers compensation matters.

The Supreme Court has unlimited civil jurisdiction.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

NSW Civil Court System

The Local Court of NSW is separated into two divisions: the small claims division, and the general division.

The small claims division is designed to be less formal and less technical, and the rules of evidence don’t apply. It can determine matters up to the value of $10,000. Normally, the matter is determined based on written statements, and not by oral evidence. All other matters up to $100,000 are dealt with in the general division.

Appeals from the Small Claims division can only be made to the District Court on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction or procedural fairness. Appeals from the General Division can be made to the Supreme Court on a question of law.

The District Court can hear all motor vehicle claims regardless of the monetary value, and all other claims up to the value of $750,000. The most common claims commenced in the District Court involve breach of contract, personal injury, or defamation.

The Supreme Court has unlimited civil jurisdiction, and is divided into the Common Law Division, and the Equity Division. The Common Law Division determines matters relating to breach of contract, damages for personal injury, possession of land, and defamation. The Equity Division hears matters on probate, challenging a will, admiralty, and protective matters. It also deals with injunctions, enforcing or setting aside contracts, and matters relating to corporations, partnerships and trusts.

The Supreme Court has specialist lists in which judges with specific knowledge of that field of law are assigned. Proceedings in the Courts are commenced by filing a Statement of Claim, which is then served on the Defendant. The Defendant will then have 28 days to file a defence. If they fail to do so then an application for Default Judgment can be made.

NSW Civil Legislation

NCAT is governed by the Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013. There are also many individual Acts that relate to the various areas covered by NCAT, which includes the Dividing Fences Act 1991, Home Building Act 1989, Motor Dealers and Repairers Act 2013, Residential Tenancies Act 2010, and the Retail Leases Act 1994.

Civil proceedings commenced through the Court system is governed overall by the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005, and the Civil Procedure Act 2005. Each Court also has its own legislation outlining the procedural rules relevant to the Court and the jurisdiction it has to determine matters.

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