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If you are taking someone to court in NSW because of a contractual dispute, you should keep in mind a few factors. Firstly, going to court can cost a lot of money. As a general rule, and where appropriate, you should try and resolve your dispute through alternative means (such as negotiation or mediation). If taking someone to court is your best option, it is important to know which court is the most applicable to your circumstances. Depending on how much money is involved, the three most common courts you will go will be the Local Court, District Court or Supreme Court. Below, we set out which court you should go to if you are in New South Wales and want to start a civil claim.

Local Court

The Local Courts hear a large volume of civil cases. There are courts located throughout NSW.

The Small Claims Division deals with claims for amounts under $10,000. The General Division can hear claims up to $100,000 (except for damages resulting from personal injury or death, where the limit is $60,000). In certain circumstances, the General Division has the power to make a decision on cases for a money claim of up to 20% more than the relevant limit.

To start proceedings, you must file an originating process. The fee for individuals is $97 (Small Claims Division) or $239 (General Division). The cost for companies is $194 (Small Claims Division) or $478 (General Division).

District Court

The District Court is the “middle court” – it deals with larger amounts of money than the Local Courts. Matters under general law (such as commercial disputes) can be heard in this court if they involve amounts up to $750,000.

In particular circumstances, there is no monetary limit on the disputes the District Court can hear. These include claims for damages arising from workplace injuries. If there is consent or no objection, the Court can also increase its jurisdiction from $750,000 to $1,125,000.

To start a case in the District Court, you will need to file an originating process. The fee is $654 for individuals or $1,308 for companies. If you are filing an appeal, the fee is $269 for individuals or $538 for companies.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the top court in NSW (similar to what the High Court of Australia is to our country as a whole). It typically deals with the largest amounts of money.

The Supreme Court can hear all civil matters, and it can hear appeals from certain bodies, such as the District Court and the Dust Diseases Tribunal. The Supreme Court usually hears cases in the city, but can have trials in regional areas if necessary. Appeals from the Supreme Court, as well as the District Court, go to the Court of Appeal.

Running a case in the Supreme Court can be very expensive. Therefore, if one of the other courts has the power to hear your particular case, it is prudent to commence proceedings in that court. If the sum of money involved is larger than the District Court limit, then the Supreme Court is the best forum to hear your dispute.

You commence proceedings by filing an originating process, statement of claim or summons. The filing fee is $1,078 for individuals and $2,951 for companies.

Not Sure What To Do?

Call us on 1300 544 755 – we’re here to help! We have experienced litigation lawyers who can give you advice on your prospects of success if you decide to go to court, as well as other options you may have resolving disputes outside of court.


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