Please note: Articles on this website were originally published by CourtKeys.com in 2015 and may now be out of date. Revised and updated content is included in Civil Litigation for Non-Lawyers [available here]. Disclaimer
On this page:
- Commencing a claim in the District Court
- Statement of claim
- Notice of proceeding
- Filing fee
- Determining the appropriate District Court registry
- Filing the statement of claim and notice of proceeding
- Claim commencement checklist
- Acceptance, rejection or requisition by the Court
Claims can be commenced in the District Court by filing a statement of claim and notice of proceeding together with additional copies of those documents and $200 filing fee in the appropriate registry.
The number of additional copies of your statement of claim and notice of proceeding to be filed will depend on the number of other parties involved in the case. Where only one other party is involved you would include two additional copies of your claim and notice. That way you would end up filing a set for you, a set for the court and a set for the party you are claiming against. You would then include an extra set of copies for each additional party after that. So you would include four sets of documents if you were claiming against two parties at once, and five sets if you were claiming against three parties at once.
Statement of claim
A court case may be commenced in the District Court by statement of claim under rule 5.28 of the District Courts Rules 2014.
A statement of claim is a document that explains the reasons for the court case. It would need to describe who you are, what you are claiming, and why you should receive what you are claiming. It would also need to describe who the claim is against and why he, she or it should give you what you are claiming. These descriptions are called ‘pleadings’. See those parts of this text dealing with statements of claim for more.
Notice of proceeding
Rule 5.25 of the District Courts Rules 2014 provides that a notice of proceeding must be filed with every statement of claim, although rule 5.27 makes some exceptions.
A notice of proceeding is just that: It is a notice of the ‘proceeding’ or ‘court case’ that you are commencing in the Court. The requirements are set out at rule 5.26 of the District Courts Rules 2014:
(1) The notice of proceeding must –
(a) be signed by the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s solicitor:
(b) state the place for the filing of a statement of defence and the time within which the statement of defence is required to be filed, in accordance with these rules:
(c) warn the defendant that if a statement of defence is not filed within the required time, the plaintiff may at once proceed to judgment on the plaintiff’s claim and judgment may be given in the absence of the defendant.
(2) The notice of proceeding must be in form 1.
(3) If the court has directed that any person other than the defendant named in the title of the proceeding is served, a statement to that effect signed by the Registrar and setting out the name, place of residence, and occupation of that person must be annexed to the notice of proceeding.
Note that the notice of proceeding may need to be adjusted depending on the particular circumstances of a case. For example:
1. Form 35A of the District Courts Rules 2014 may be required where summary judgment is sought by a plaintiff.
2. Rule 6.27 of the District Courts Rules 2014 requires an additional part to be incorporated in a notice of proceeding to be served overseas except in Australia under section 13 of the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010. That additional part is set out in form G6 of the High Court Rules.
3. If a notice of proceeding is to be served in Australia under section 13 of the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 then an additional part is required by section 15 of that Act. That additional part is set out in form 1 of the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Regulations and Rules 2013.
Cheques for the $200 filing fee may be made out to the Ministry of Justice.
Note that the Court may waive filing fees in certain circumstances upon application made under regulation 5 of the District Courts Fees Regulations 2009.
Determining the appropriate District Court registry
Rule 5.1 of the District Courts Rules 2014 provides:
(1) Documents that are required by these rules to be filed in the court must be filed in the registry –
(a) either –
(i) nearest to the residence or principal place of business of the defendant; or
(ii) if the defendant is neither resident nor has a principal place of business in New Zealand, selected by the plaintiff; or
(b) nearest to the place where the actions or omissions that led to the claim happened; or
(c) nearest to the place where the property the is the subject of the claim is located; or
(d) determined by the court or Registrar on the court’s or Registrar’s own initiative or on application.
See the Ministry of Justice website for contact details of each District Court: https://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/utilities/contact/courts.
Filing the statement of claim and notice of proceeding
There are 2 ways to file a statement of claim and notice of proceeding:
1. In person
You can file the documents (and copies and filing fee) in person by dropping them off at the appropriate District Court registry.
Filing in person could be worthwhile if you are unsure about some part of your documents: You could take the opportunity to raise your queries with court staff and perhaps correct some error there and then. However, keep in mind that you can telephone the court staff and ask questions. That might save you a trip if you have made some serious error.
You might have to file your claim at the ‘civil counter’ of the District Court you visit. Ask court staff about which counter you should file at and where it is if you are unsure. There are usually signs around the courthouse, possibly a directory and there may even be a help desk available.
Filing in person could also be of some benefit to you if you have never been to court before. Litigation can be stressful and people sometimes fear the unknown, so the hearing might be a bit less stressful for you if had already familiarised yourself with the courthouse.
You might also take the opportunity to watch a District Court case from the public gallery to get a feel for how your hearing might play out. District Courtrooms are normally open to the public and you can come in part way through and leave early if you like.
You can also post or courier the documents (and copies and filing fee) to the appropriate District Court registry. It would assist the court staff if you included a cover letter with any documents.
Claim commencement checklist
The things you should have at the point you are filing your District Court claim are:
1. Completed statement of claim to be filed in the District Court
2. Completed notice of proceeding to be filed in the District Court
3. Copies of the completed statement of claim and notice of proceeding to be filed in the District Court to be issued for you and each other party to the case
4. Copies of the completed statement of claim and notice of proceeding to be retained for your own records (perhaps in electronic form) just in case the documents filed in the District Court become lost
5. $200 filing fee
6. Cover letter to go with the documents and filing fee (optional)
7. A copy of any cover letter to keep for yourself (perhaps in electronic form)
Acceptance, rejection or requisition by the Court
When the District Court receives a claim it will make a decision about whether to accept it, reject it or require something to be done before accepting it. It could be that there is a jurisdictional issue, an error in the notice of proceeding or the wrong filing fee for example.
If the District Court rejects your claim or requires something more then it should contact you to let you know.
If the Court accepts your claim then it will keep one copy of the statement of claim and notice of proceeding and issue the additional copies to you. Those issued additional copies should have the Court file reference noted in the top right hand corner of the first page. That reference begins with the letters ‘CIV’ followed by numbers in civil cases, and may be referred to as the ‘CIV number’ for that reason. Another thing the Court should do is date and sign the notice of proceeding at the part marked “Signature: (Registrar/Deputy Registrar)”.