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Civil Claims

Please note that new Uniform Civil Court Rules 2020 for legal proceedings in the Magistrates, District and Supreme Courts of South Australia are scheduled to commence on 18 May 2020. The information in this chapter has been updated to reflect the new rules and applies to matters commenced after 18 May 2020.

The Uniform Civil Rules 2020 (including schedules) came into effect on 18 May 2020. These rules apply to civil proceedings in the Magistrates Court, District Court and Supreme Court.

Civil claims can cover a wide range of matters. The most common types of civil claims are claims for debts (such as money owing on loans or under contracts) or claims for damages (such as for money claimed for repairing a car or for personal injuries following a road accident).

Some types of civil claims, such as residential tenancies, unfair dismissals, bankruptcy, copyright and planning and development, are dealt with by special courts or tribunals . This chapter does not deal with the procedure in these special courts and tribunals.

In this chapter, unless otherwise stated, the procedure for making a claim is that which applies in the Magistrates Court Civil (Minor Claims) Division. For additional information about minor civil claims, see DEBT and ACCIDENTS AND INJURIES, Motor vehicle accidents.

In which court is a civil claim started?

The amount of money or damages being claimed usually determines the Court in which a claim should be started. The monetary limits for the types of claims which courts can deal with are [Magistrates Court Act 1991 ss 3 and 8]:

  • Up to $12 000 Magistrates Court Civil (Minor Claims) Division
  • $12 001 - $100 000 Magistrates Court Civil (General Claims) Division
  • Over $100 000 District Court Civil Division.

Claims can also be made in the Supreme Court, but there are cost implications if an applicant makes an application and the amount of the judgment awarded by the Supreme Court falls below a certain amount. The amount depends on the type of claim (for defamation claims, $50 000 in damages must be awarded for the applicant to be eligible to make a claim for legal costs; and for other monetary claims, costs of the claim are not payable to a successful applicant if the damages awarded is less than $120 000 [see r 194.5]). The court also has discretion to order a cost penalty against a party if the amount awarded is less than an offer of settlement filed with the court and not accepted[see r 194.6(e) and r 132.10].

See also LEGAL SYSTEM, State Courts

The procedures that are followed in the District Court and the Supreme Court are very nearly the same as each other. Whilst there are many similarities with the procedural steps in all of the Courts, generally the procedures have been simplified in the minor civil division of the Magistrates Court.

Children and civil claims  :  Last Revised: Mon Jun 1st 2020
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.