District Court of Western Australia

Representing Yourself

There are two broad types of civil claims that can be brought in the District Court:

  1. Claims for damages in respect of the death or personal injury of a person; and
  2. Other personal actions where the amount, value or damages sought to be recovered (not including interest) is not more than $750,000.

Personal 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 may bring in a further party called a third party so that all issues in the dispute can be determined at the one hearing.

A general civil case will usually proceed along the following lines:

  1. The plaintiff files a writ of summons to commence the action.
  2. The defendant files a memorandum of appearance indicating that the defendant intends to defend the action and providing an address for service of documents.
  3. The plaintiff files a statement of claim stating the facts on which their claim is based and the orders sought from the Court.
  4. The defendant files a defence, stating 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.
  5. 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.
  6. A party may apply to the Court for orders to identify the issues in dispute more clearly called a request for particulars or to obtain information from the other side as to the case it has to meet at trial called interrogator.
  7. 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.
  8. The parties are required to attend a settlement conference (known as a pre-trial conference) where a Court Registrar may 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 Mediation Conference is listed.
  9. If the action is not settled at the pre-trial conference the action is listed to a listing conference where trial dates may be allocated.
  10. The trial is held. A Judge will usually take around 3 months to review all the evidence and publish a written judgment.
  11. 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 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.

PDF and Word versions of the forms are available on the Civil Procedure Forms page.

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.

Last updated: 6-Sep-2021

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