Magistrates Court – Civil Matters

The Magistrates Court of Western Australia deals with civil matters that involve claims for up to $75,000.

Even if your claim may be more than $75,000, you can still choose to commence legal action in the Magistrates Court of Western Australia. However, any amount over and above $75,000 cannot be awarded. For example, if your debt recovery claim is for $100,000, the Magistrates Court can only award the claim for up to $75,000 and the balance $25,000 is waived.

Commencing Action

An action in the Magistrates Court is commenced by way of a General Procedure Claim.   You are required to provide the grounds of your claim.  You must be able to demonstrate to the Court that legally you have a cause of action against the defendant.   This is done by clearly articulating the facts giving rise to your cause of action or ground in your Statement of Claim.

As claimant, you have the responsibility of carrying the course of the matter.

Once an action is commenced by filing a properly completed General Procedure Claim, you must effect personal service of the Court documents on the defendant.

Personal service of a document on an individual can be by:

  • Handing the document to the individual or, if the individual is a person under a legal disability, to the individual’s parent, guardian or litigation guardian
  • If the individual or the individual’s parent, guardian or litigation guardian does not accept the document, put the document down in his or her presence and advise him or her of the nature of the document
  • Hand the document to a person who is authorised, in writing, to receive documents on behalf of the individual
  • Hand the document to someone at the person’s usual or last known place of residence or business who is believed, on reasonable grounds, to have reached 18 years of age or
  • Hand the document to a lawyer who is acting for the individual.

Defending a Claim

If you are served with a General Procedure Claim, you must respond to the claim:

  • Within 14 days if you are within Western Australia; or
  • Within 21 days if you are outside Western Australia.

You can respond to a claim by:

  • Defending against the claim.
  • Make a counter-claim against the claimant.
  • Admit to the full amount claimed.
  • Admit to part of the claim.

If you do not respond within the time limit, a default judgment may be entered against you.

Your credit rating will be affected if legal action is commenced against you or judgement being entered against you.

Pre-trial Conference

It is normal procedure that a Pre-Trial Conference be listed for the parties to be given the opportunity to negotiate or attempt to settle the dispute.

At the pre-trial conference, either a Magistrate or Registrar may act as a mediator to assist the parties with settling the matter.

In preparation for the pre-trial conference, you are expected to:

  • Be prepared to explore options or ways to settle. Generally, we advise our clients to have a few options in mind and be prepared to compromise.  It is important to make a commercial decision and not be intertwined into time wasting and futile arguments with the other party.
  • Be prepared to isolate and highlight all legal and factual issues relevant to the dispute. For it to be constructive, we generally advise clients to attempt to identify to issues that are not disputed so that the parties can focus only on the issues in dispute.
  • Be prepared that the parties may not be able to settle. However, strategically, after the pre-trial conference, we will be able to help our clients obtain useful information by identifying the other party’s true position and intention.

Clear Strategy

You should have a clear strategy before engaging in litigation.

You must know what you are able to achieve in Court and you must know what you are prepared to compromise.

You must continuously review your position after each step is taken in the proceedings to make sure that you are still in control. If you are not in control, you will risk losing substantially as well as having your costs “blown out”.

Litigation is inherently costly and risky.