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Local Court - General Division

This page has some information about claims in the Local Court - General Division.

    When do you go to the General Division?

    A court case to recover a debt in NSW is dealt with in:

    • the Small Claims Division of the Local Court where the claim is for up to $10,000
    • the General Division of the Local Court where the claim is for more than $10,000 and up to 100,000 (or $120,000 in some limited circumstances)
    • the District Court or the Supreme Court where the claim is for more than $100,000 (or $120,000 in some limited circumstances)
    • the Supreme Court where the claim is for possession under a mortgage

    The LawAccess NSW website has a topic about Local Court - Small Claims and how to deal with these matters. If the claim is for more than $10,000 you should get legal advice.

    Directions call-over

    After a plaintiff files a statement of claim and a defendant files a defence, the court will list the case for a directions call-over. The court will send the plaintiff and defendant a Notice of Listing with the date of the directions call-over and a copy of the standard directions.

    The directions call-over will usually be within six weeks of the date on which the defence is filed.

    A directions call over is the first opportunity for the court to decide how the matter will proceed. The magistrate or registrar may decide:

    • adjourn (postpone) the directions call over, if the parties are not ready to proceed to hearing or are currently negotiating
    • refer the matter to mediation
    • refer the matter for arbitration hearing
    • dismiss the statement of claim or strike out the defence if a party fails to attend the directions call-over
    • allocate the matter for a hearing date and make standard directions which include a date for review and if required a date for early return of subpoena
    • direct the parties to complete a civil listing advice that must be filed in court at the review
    • direct the parties to file a statement of agreed facts and issues, seven days prior to the hearing date.

    If you have a good reason for requiring more time you can request an adjournment and the magistrate or registrar may set a second directions call-over date. However, they may make a cost order against you for the delay.

    If the matter is set down for hearing, you will be directed to exchange written statements or affidavit evidence. Generally, you must exchange the evidence at least four weeks before the review date. You should read the court's directions carefully.

    Evidence in the General Division needs to comply with the rules of evidence. For more information, see Managing your case in the Legal skills topic on the Representing Yourself section of our website.

    Second directions call-over

    If the case is listed for a second directions call-over it will usually take place within 28 days.

    At the second directions call-over the magistrate or registrar may:

    • adjourn (postpone) the directions callover,  if the parties are not ready to proceed to hearing or are currently negotiating.
    • refer the matter to mediation
    • refer the matter for arbitration hearing
    •  dismiss the statement of claim or strike out the defence if a party fails to attend the directions call-over
    • allocate the matter for a hearing date and make standard directions which include a date for review and if required a date for early return of subpoena
    • direct the parties to complete a civil listing advice that must be filed in court at the review
    • direct the parties to file a statement of agreed facts & and issues, seven days prior to the hearing date.

    If the parties are not ready to take a hearing date then you will be given a date for a directions hearing before a magistrate. The directions hearing will usually be within 14 days of the second directions call-over.

    Review

    A review is where the court determines if parties have complied with the court's standard directions given at the directions call-over and if the matter is ready to proceed to hearing. This includes:

    • inquiring  if the parties have exchanged  the statements/evidence upon which they rely
    • the parties  filing a written summary of their case  (including any reference to case law or legislation that you are relying on),  and
    • confirming the hearing date and going over how the  hearing will run, for example, the number of witnesses and the estimated time to question each witness).

    The review will be listed approximately four weeks before the hearing date.

    If you have not  exchanged evidence that you want to rely on, the court may give you more time to comply or tell you that you cannot rely on that evidence at the hearing or dismiss your statement of claim or strike out your defence.

    Hearing

    A hearing is when parties present their evidence to the court and make submissions on the law that applies for the court to make a decision about the matter. Parties must be prepared to give evidence and question witnesses according to the rules of evidence. The court will also expect parties to follow the process that was agreed at the review about how the  hearing will run.

    You do not have to be represented by a lawyer at the  hearing. However, matters in the General Division of the Local Court are more formal and it is a good idea to get legal advice. You will need to follow strict rules and procedure.

    If you have a good reason why you cannot attend court on the  hearing date, you can file a notice of motion not less than 21 days prior to the  hearing date asking for the date to be changed. You may also be able to change a  hearing date within 21 days of the hearing date if unforeseen circumstances arise, for example a witness gets sick. Before you file a notice of motion, you should get legal advice. 

    Depending on your circumstances, the court may be able to change the hearing date but the court may also make costs orders.

    Costs

    If you win the  hearing, you may be able to claim your lawyer's costs and any disbursements you have paid relating to the claim. Disbursements are other expenses you have to pay, such as fees to get a search done or paying for an expert report.

    The court has discretion about whether or not to make a party pay you these costs but the general rule is that the losing party will pay the legal costs of the winning party.

    Unlike the Small Claims Division, costs are not capped in the General Division of the Local Court. At the end of a hearing, parties must be ready to present a summary and evidence of what they believe to be fair and reasonable costs.

    Appeal

    Appeals from the General Division of the Local Court are made to the Supreme Court but can only be made on limited grounds.

    The time limit to appeal is 28 days from the date of judgment.

    If you want to appeal a decision, you should get legal advice.