In December 2022, the NSW government passed legislation increasing the jurisdiction of the District Court of NSW. The change has implications for litigants and legal practitioners alike – potentially providing cheaper and faster resolution of claims, reducing the backlog of cases and enhancing access to justice.
The changes apply to proceedings filed on or after 16 December 2022.
Prior to the amendment, the maximum amount that the District Court was able to award in damages was $750,000.00, except with the consent of the Defendant. That limit has been in place for many years and, as a result of inflation and damages now being awarded by the court, it was inadequate to address the needs of modern litigation.
The District Court is now able to award up to $1,250,000.00. The Court’s equitable jurisdiction has increased from $20,000.00 to $100,000.00. The District Court is able to award costs and interest after judgment in addition to those amounts.
If a Defendant does not object to the court’s jurisdiction then the amount that can be awarded by the District Court increases by 50%, that is the maximum amount it can award is $1,875,000.00. The Defendant is also able to consent to the court having unlimited jurisdiction.
What are some of the implications of the change in limit?
The practical effect of the change will be to enable the District Court to hear more cases that otherwise would have been tried in the Supreme Court. The procedures in the District Court are typically less complex and cases are heard much more quickly than they are in the Supreme Court.
The previous jurisdictional limit also set a trap for litigants. The Supreme Court will not ordinarily order that a successful Plaintiff is to be paid legal costs in the event that the court awards less than $500,000.00 in damages. Therefore, prior to the amendment a litigant risked either running their case in the District Court where they could receive a maximum of $750,000.00, even if their case was worth more, or proceeding in the Supreme Court where in the case of a bad result (of less than $500,000.00) then costs would not be awarded.
Seek expert legal advice
Expert advice for your case is very important. You need to consider which court is likely to provide you with the best result.
It is important that you speak with your personal injury lawyers and obtain advice before proceedings are commenced because the wrong decision can have adverse consequences.