If you believe that you have a claim against someone and the person has refused to acknowledge it, you may be entitled to take the person to court.
In New Zealand there is a system of three courts:
There is also a limited right of appeal to the Privy Council.
If your claim is not more than $7,500 you may take your claim to the Disputes Tribunal (formerly the Small Claims Tribunal). This maximum is increased to $12,000 if both parties agree. See How to make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal.
The Disputes Tribunal is less formal than the District Court, and the parties represent themselves.
If you wish to begin court proceedings, you will need to do so within six years after the event that gave rise to your right to sue (this is called the "limitation period").
This rule applies to court proceedings generally, but many statutes set their own special limitation periods, which override the general rule. An example of this is that if you take action under the FAIR TRADING ACT 1986, the limitation period is three years.
The person who starts court proceedings is called the "plaintiff". You will need to file a "Statement of Claim", which in the District Court carries a filing fee of $50. The Statement of Claim sets out your view of the events that led to your claim and what you want the Court to do.
The other party â€“ the "defendant" â€“ will then need to file a "Statement of Defence" (with a filing fee of $60), which contains his or her version of the events. A copy of this is sent to you, the plaintiff.
If the other party doesn't file a Statement of Defence, the plaintiff can apply for the court to find in his or her favour by default ("judgement by default").
There are various procedures that will or may apply to your case, such as:
The court will fix a hearing date. At the hearing, the plaintiff presents his or her case first. The defendant can question any witnesses that the plaintiff calls.
Next, the debtor presents a defence and argues why judgement should not be given against him or her.
After the hearing the judge will issue a judgement.
There are certain rights of appeal to a higher court that may be exercised if you are unsatisfied with the result of your case.