Minor Civil Claims (Tas)
In Tasmania, under the Magistrates Court (Civil Division) Act 1992, a minor civil claim is a dispute involving $5,000 or less. This page deals with minor civil claims in Tasmania.
In Tasmania, the Magistrates Court hears minor civil claims, which are claims involving up to $5,000. The Magistrates Court also hears civil claims of between $5,000 and $50,000. It may also hear claims for more than $50,000 if all parties agree.
Civil disputes involving more than $50,000 are usually dealt with by the Supreme Court.
Talk to the other party
Before filing a minor civil claim, a party should always try to resolve the situation by talking to the other party directly or by attempting mediation. Resolving a dispute without resorting to litigation is a better option in situations where parties would like to preserving their working relationship. Disputes dealt with this way are also generally finalised quicker than where a court or tribunal is involved.
Letter of demand
If you are owed money, goods or services by another party and have not been able to come to an agreement with them, you should send them a letter of demand. This is a formal letter that contains all the details of the claim, including what is owed, why it is owed, who is responsible and the date by which payment or completion of the work is demanded.
The letter of demand should have any evidence of the claim attached, such as invoices and any previous correspondence. It should also make it clear that legal proceedings will be commenced if the debt is not paid by the nominated date.
Filing a minor civil claim
If the situation cannot be resolved, the claimant should complete a Claim Form and Notice to Defendant, detailing the amount claimed and the particulars of the claim. This should be filed at the Magistrates Court registry and served on the defendant.
Filing a defence
If the defendant disputes the claim or the amount claimed, they should file a defence. When this occurs, the matter will proceed to a conciliation conference where the parties will be supported and encouraged to negotiate a settlement.
If the defendant does not file a defence within 21 days, the claimant may apply for default judgment by filing a Default Judgment Form. If the court makes a default judgment, this may be enforced against the judgment creditor through various orders including a garnishee order or a warrant to sell property.
A party can apply to have a default judgment set aside if they believe the judgment should not have been made. A party who wishes to do this must file an application supported by an affidavit, explaining why the party did not file a defence within the time limit and what their defence is.
If the defendant has filed a defence and no settlement can be reached, the parties will be required to attend a hearing. Each party should prepare for the hearing by gathering all the relevant documentation and evidence including witness statements, invoices and bank statements. All witnesses who provide statements must be available to attend court for the hearing.
Parties will have the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses of the opposing party. However, when the court is hearing a minor civil claim, it is not bound by the rules of evidence. This means that rules such as the prohibition against inadmissible hearsay do not have to be strictly adhered to in the way they do in other types of matters. Minor civil claims are conducted as informally and expeditiously as possible.
At the hearing, each party will be asked to give an opening summary of their case. They will then have the opportunity to call evidence and to question the other party’s witnesses. The magistrate may also ask questions.
The magistrate will then make a decision, which is an enforceable court order.
Parties to minor civil claims are generally unrepresented. Under section 31AD of the Magistrates Court (Civil Division) Act 1992, a party to a minor civil matter may have legal representation only if:
- another party to the matter is a legal practitioner; or
- all parties agree; or
- the court considers that the party would be unfairly disadvantaged if they were not legally represented.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.