Suing or being sued in the Minor Claims Division of the Magistrates Court?

Suing or being sued in the Minor Claims Division of the Magistrates Court?

If you or someone you know is contemplating or involved in a minor case claim (under $10,000) through the WA Magistrates Court, then you should read on.

It can be daunting to utilise the Minor Claims Division to resolve a dispute you have found yourself in, but that need not be the case. The Minor Claims Division aims to bring the parties to a resolution as quickly and efficiently as possible by encouraging a compromise settlement where it is appropriate to do so. If a compromise settlement cannot be reached, then the Magistrates Court will program the claim to a trial. All proceedings will usually beheld in private unless the Court orders otherwise, although relatives and friends may be present at the trial unless the Court orders otherwise.

There is a presumption against the parties having lawyers in court in a minor case claim unless all parties agree otherwise, or the Court is satisfied that none of the parties will be unfairly disadvantaged as a result. This approach is intended to keep costs down as much as possible. However, getting some background assistance is both encouraged and often sensible, as if your claim or defence is unlikely to succeed then it is best to find that out before suffering an embarrassing outcome at trial and potentially being criticised by a Magistrate for wasting the court’s time and resources. 

Claims must be lodged online through the eCourts portal and there will be a filing fee payable on lodgement, which varies depending upon the person/entity lodging it. A common filing mistake is the claimant failing to correctly identify the legal entities involved eg a company or partnership rather than an individual. It is important to get these basic details correct to avoid delays in the court process, or worst case, having a claim struck out altogether. 

Once filed, the claim will then need to be ‘served’ upon the other party or parties. That can be done by the bailiff (which is organised by the court) at minimal cost. Once served, the other party or parties have 14 days (if service is within Western Australia or 21 days if service is within another State or Territory of Australia) to respond. You cannot do anything until the defendant’s time to respond has expired. What happens next will depend on how the defendant responds to the claim.

Finally, if you have read this far and think that you may need some preliminary advice in your matter then we recommend that in the first instance you discuss your situation with us in our SmartMove initial 30-minute discounted consultation, which we offer for $80 and which can be booked through our website or by simply getting in touch. Austral Legal. Practical advice.