There are four civil law WA jurisdictions in which a claim can be commenced. Most civil law WA disputes are decided through the WA Courts. As for which court, this will depend on the type of civil claim and the quantum of relief being sought.
The Magistrates Court can determine matters with a value less than $75,000. Anything over this amount but less than $750,000 will need to be commenced in the District Court; except damages for personal injury in which it has unlimited jurisdiction, and exclusive jurisdiction for injury resulting from a motor vehicle accident.
The Supreme Court only deals with civil disputes that are in excess of $750,000, and probate matters, including challenging a will. There is also the State Administrative Tribunal, which handles only certain matters, and is very limited in its scope.
Civil Forms and Timeframes
In Western Australia, there are different claim forms that need to be filed depending on the type of issue your matter relates to whether it be for debt recovery, or a consumer claim. The forms are divided into three main areas Minor Case Claims, General Procedure Claims, and Consumer/Trader Claims. No matter which form you are required to use the general term is Statement of Claim which is filed with the Court, and then served on the defendant. Once the defendant has been served they only have 14 days to file a defence. If they reside outside of WA they have 21 days. If the defendant ignores the claim you can then make an application for default judgment. If however, they do file a response your matter will be set down for a conference in the hope the matter can be settled. If this fails the matter will then be set down for trial.
Minor Case Claims
If you have a claim of less than $10,000, the matter can be heard in the minor case claim division of the Magistrates Court. If you commence proceedings in this division you are not able to be legally represented unless all of the parties agree. However, legal costs will not be awarded even if you win. The benefit of commencing a minor case claim is that the aim of the Court is for the parties to reach a mutually beneficial settlement, with simplified procedures to make the processes less daunting.
Civil Law WA Legislation
There are many different pieces of legislation that govern civil law in Western Australia. If you are filing a claim in the Magistrates Court the procedures are governed by the Magistrates Court (Civil Proceedings) Act 2004, which outlines the process that needs to be followed. However, you also need to be aware of the particular legislation that relates to your matter. For example if it is a residential tenancy dispute, a claim for defamation, or a dividing fence dispute, which have their own legislation that needs to be adhered to as to the type of cause of action that can be taken.
Civil law WA Tribunals
The State Administrative Tribunal is Western Australia’s main tribunal and commenced in 2005, which incorporated over 50 smaller industry and public boards and tribunals. The tribunal can make decisions, settle disputes and review decisions; however it only has certain powers which are governed by legislation relating to the particular industry. Some of the matters that the tribunal can determine include commercial tenancy disputes (Commercial Tenancy (Retail Shops) Agreements Act 1985), review of decisions of the Building Commission, guardianship matters (Guardianship and Administration Act 1990), mental health appeals, and it also reviews a range of administrative government decisions.
Civil Law WA has various time limitation periods for you to make a claim, which vary considerably between types of matters. Most civil litigation matters over contract disputes, for example, have a time limit of 6 years, but other matters such as personal injury have a 3 year limitation, defamation only has a 1 year time limit, and employment law has even less with some time restraints being 21 days. Most time limitations are outlined in the Limitation Act 2005, and need to be strictly adhered to otherwise you may not be entitled to seek compensation or damages.