Litigation Update

Are You Ready For Change

South Australian Attorney-General tables a Bill to reduce the jurisdictional limit for Minor Civil Claims from $25,000 to $12,000

 

What is a minor civil claim?

A minor civil claim is a small claim that is commenced by a person or company in the Magistrates Court of South Australia involving a dispute worth $25,000 or less. These claims often involve debt recovery claims, and minor neighbourhood and fencing disputes.

Despite the fact that in most court proceedings a successful party would generally be entitled to recover a portion of their legal costs from the unsuccessful party, in this jurisdiction that right is significantly limited.

In short, the basic idea behind minor civil claims in the Magistrates Court of South Australia is that the parties to a dispute run their own case to minimise their legal cost expenditure, so as not to make the prosecution of those claims uncommercial.

What are the proposed changes?

On 13 April 2016, the South Australian Attorney-General tabled the Magistrates Court (Monetary Limits) Amendment Bill 2016 to amend the Magistrates Court Act 1991 (SA) to reduce the value of minor civil claims from $25,000 to $12,000.

Therefore, if the Bill comes into force and retains its current transitional provisions, all newly commenced claims worth $12,000 or less will fall within the jurisdictional limit for minor civil claims in the Magistrates Court of South Australia.

In the meantime, the $25,000 or less jurisdictional limit for minor civil claims in the Magistrates Court of South Australia remains in effect.

Why use a lawyer for minor civil claims?

In my experience, parties are often unfamiliar with the substantive law applicable to their claims, which is often more complex than the modest value of the claim sometimes suggests, and most people are unfamiliar with the procedural rules of the court system.

Therefore, in the absence of obtaining legal advice, parties may struggle to swiftly and economically have their cases dealt with within the South Australian Magistrates Court system.

In practice, I have been engaged to draft court documents, provide advice and ‘coach’ clients to empower them to commence and manage their own minor civil claims and, if necessary, step in to deal with the more complex legal issues that may arise from time to time.