What general civil claims can be brought in the District Court?
There are two broad types of civil claims that can be brought in the District Court:
(a) claims for damages in respect of the death or personal injury of a person; and
(b) other personal actions where the amount, value or damages sought to be recovered (not including interest) is not more than $750,000.
Person actions include claims for breach of contract and debt recovery actions.
For more specific information on the types of actions that may be commenced in the District Court, see District Court of Western Australia Act 1969 (WA).
The party who commences a general civil case is called the ‘plaintiff’.
The person against whom the action is brought is called the ‘defendant’.
There may be more than one plaintiff and more than one defendant, in which case they will be referred to as the second plaintiff or second defendant, or third plaintiff and so on.
In some cases, the defendant wants to bring in a further party so that all issues in the dispute can be determined at the one hearing.
Overview of a general civil case
A general civil case will usually proceed along the following lines:
- The plaintiff files a writ of summons to commence the action.
- The defendant files a memorandum of appearance indicating that the defendant intends to defend the action and providing a address for service of documents.
- The plaintiff files a statement of claim sets out the facts on which their claim is based and the orders sought from the Court.
- The defendant files a defence, setting out the facts which the defendant wishes to place before the Court in opposition to the plaintiff’s claim. The defendant may also file a counterclaim containing a claim by the defendant against the plaintiff.
- Each party provides a list of the documents in their possession, custody or control to the other side, and permits the other side to inspect and take copies of these documents. This process is known as discovery.
- A party may apply to the Court for orders to identify the issues in dispute more clearly or to obtain information from the other side as to the case it has to meet at trial.
- The plaintiff enters the action for trial, signifying to the Court that the parties are ready for the action to be allocated a trial date.
- The parties are required to attend a settlement conference (known as a pre trial conference) where a Court Registrar will facilitate a discussion between the parties to see if the parties can agree to settle the action without going to trial. In some cases a more formal Mediation Conference is listed.
- The action is allocated a trial date.
- The trial is held. A Judge will usually take around 3 months to review all the evidence and publish a written judgment.
- The successful party enforces the judgment.
For every 100 actions that are commenced, only 2 or 3 will proceed to trial. The vast majority settle prior to the allocation of a trial date.
The Court aims to hold the trial in a civil case within 12 months of commencement.
The information set out above provides a general overview only as to the procedure of the District Court. The procedure of the Court is set out in the following legislation:
- District Court of Western Australia Act 1969
- District Court Rules 2005
- District Court (Fees) Regulations 2002
- Supreme Court Act 1935
- Rules of the Supreme Court 1971
- Civil Judgments Enforcement Act 2004
- Civil Judgments Enforcement Regulations 2005
The Rules of the Supreme Court apply to the District Court unless the District Court Rules set out a different procedure.
There is also more detailed guidance in the Practice Directions and Circulars to Practitioners contained on this website.
The Court has published a Procedure Guide to assist litigants to understand the practice and procedure of the District Court. Click here to download a copy of the Procedure Guide and here to download pdf copies of the annexures in the Procedure Guide.
The documents which a party must file to run or defend a general civil claim must be in the form set out in the Rules of the Supreme Court 1971 (“RSC”) and the District Court Rules 2005 (WA) (“DCR”). The main documents required to be filed are set out in the following table :
The information on this website should not be relied on as a substitute for legal advice. Any person commencing or defending an action in the District Court is advised to seek legal advice on the merits of their claim (or defence) and the procedure of the District Court.