Business Brief - Recovering a Debt Through the Magistrates Court

The Magistrates Court has registries all over Western Australia to deal with various criminal and civil matters, including claims for debts. It deals with:

  • general procedure claims for debt or damage up to $75,000; and
  • minor case claims for debt or damages up to $10,000

Note: With a debt of $10,000 or less, you can elect to make either a general procedure claim or a minor case claim.

Legal representation

A lawyer cannot represent you if you are making a minor case claim for less than $10,000, unless all parties agree or the court grants special permission. If you choose to make a general procedure claim for an account up to $10,000, you can choose to be represented by a lawyer. However, your lawyer's costs will not generally be recoverable - even if your claim is proved, unless the court is satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist.

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Recovery of costs

Court, service and enforcement costs are generally recoverable. Refer to the The Magistrates Court fees - civil and criminal for the cost of lodging a claim.

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Reduction of fees for small business

For both general procedure claims and minor case claims, small businesses and non profit associations may apply to have lodgment fees reduced.

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Before you make a claim

Before you (the claimant) make a claim, you must know:

  • the amount you want to claim;
  • the date on which the services or goods were supplied;
  • the basis on which the defendant owes you the money; and
  • the correct name and address of the defendant.

If a purchase order was issued by your client or customer for the goods or services, the defendant would be the business identified on the order by their name and ABN. If the order was verbal, ensure that the person issuing the order had the authority to do so.

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Minor cases procedure

The minor cases procedure for defended matters in the Magistrates Court will generally be as follows:

  • The claimant lodges a claim and a copy of the claim is served on the defendant. Refer to the The Magistrates Court fees - civil and criminal for the cost of lodging a claim.
  • The defendant is required to enter a defence to the claim within 14 days from the due date of service of the claim and a copy of the defence is served on the claimant.
  • The claimant has 14 days after service of the defence to provide to the defendant the claimant's case statement.
  • The defendant has 14 days after being provided with a case statement by the claimant to provide to the applicant the defendant's case statement.
  • After the exchange of case statements the court will fix a date for a compulsory pre-trial conference (PTC) where it is hoped that the parties will settle.
  • Depending on the time the parties will take to respond to one another and court listings, a PTC may be held within approximately four weeks of the exchange of case statements and within approximately ten weeks of the claim being lodged.
  • If the parties fail to settle the claim the case goes to trial (before a Magistrate), which is expected to take place, depending on listings, within four to six weeks of the PTC; and judgment is likely to be given on the day of the trial for a minor cases claim.
  • The Court can order mediation of the case, or any issue arising under it, at any stage of the proceedings.
  • For minor case claims that are undefended the claimant can obtain and enforce judgment 14 days after service on the defendant.

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