In both of these courts the procedures that are followed are similar to those in the general division of the Magistrates Court. Due to the commencement of the Uniform Civil Rules 2020, the previous District Court Civil Rules (2006) and Supreme Court Civil Rules 2006 have been repealed, and no longer apply to proceedings commenced after 18 May 2020.

The Uniform Civil Rules 2020 apply to:

  • A proceeding commenced; and
  • A step in existing proceedings taken,

on or after 18 May 2020 (commencement date)

For actions commenced prior to 18 May 2020 or for steps in a proceeding taken prior to 18 May 2020 the following rules apply to these courts:

  • District Court Civil Rules 2006
  • Supreme Court Civil Rules 2006

In these courts there are separate pre-action procedures under the Uniform Civil Rules 2020 that must be followed, and legal advice should be sought.

All actions and proceedings in the District Court and Supreme Court are initiated by filing either a claim or originating application. The cause of action determines whether the applicant is required to commence proceedings through a claim or originating application.

Matters that are commenced by the filing of a claim require pleadings, the process of discovery to be complied with, and may involve several interlocutory steps before trial. An interlocutory hearing may address any interim matters, procedural or temporary issues prior to the matter being heard at trial.

Legal proceedings that commence by filing an originating application generally do not require the same steps as a claim, and evidence (including facts relevant to the claim) is usually provided through affidavits.

Whether proceedings in the District Court or the Supreme Court are commenced by way of claim or originating application can be a complex legal question, and legal advice should be sought

Under the Uniform Civil Rules 2020 there are mandatory pre-action processes that an applicant must follow before commencing a claim [see Uniform Civil Rules 2020 Chapter 7 Part 1]. The pre-action requirements include the issuing of a pre-action claim [r 61.7], requirements as to pre-action meetings [r 61.12] and other steps that must be taken prior to initiating a court action [r 61.13]. The various pre-action steps allow the other party to consider settling the claim if they wish to do so. If the mandatory pre-action steps are not adhered to, the whole or part of the applicant’s costs may not be recoverable. For personal injury matters, a person who intends to commence a claim for personal injury must provide a written notice of injury to the alleged negligent party within 6 months of the date of the incident which gave rise to the personal injury [r 61.6(2)]. After the giving of a written notice of injury, and before commencing a claim in court, the applicant must have adhered to the pre-action claim procedures [r 61.7(3)]. Legal advice should be sought in such circumstances.

A claim is commenced by filing a claim (Form 1) and served on the respondent. An originating application is commenced by filing an Originating Application (Form 2), as well as a supporting affidavit (Form 12). The claim or originating application documents must be served within six months of being issued but the time can be extended if necessary [Uniform Civil Rules 2020 r 64.1(1) and r 82.5]. If an originating application is not served within six months the Court may dismiss the action.

Before a defence to the claim is filed by the respondent an appearance must also be filed and served by the respondent. This is a very short notice to both the court and the applicant to indicate that the matter is disputed. This is followed by the filing of a defence.

Unless the court orders otherwise, a respondent has 28 days after service of the claim to file a defence (Form 51).

Unless the court orders otherwise, a respondent has 14 days from service of the originating application to file a Response (Form 56). If a respondent wishes to rely on any additional facts the respondent must file a responding affidavit (Form 12) to set out the facts they intend to rely on.

The courts hold a hearing early in the progress of the action. The court may decide to hold a settlement conference after the filing of the first defence or response to try and settle the claim. If the conference is not successful, the courts will not hold any more settlement conferences, but will hold directions hearings and listing conferences to oversee the progress of the matter to trial.

As in the Magistrates Court there are cost penalties associated with the filing of offers which can have major effects on the eventual amount of payments that are received. Provision is also made for mediation of disputes.

Enforcing judgments in the District and the Supreme Courts is similar to the process in the Magistrates Court. However, additional forms may be required, depending on the specific matter or enforcement action sought. Legal advice should be sought before commencing enforcement proceedings in the District and the Supreme Courts