Making a claim at the Disputes Tribunal – How a lawyer can help

1 December, 2019 | Nathan Tetzlaff

The Disputes Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear claims regarding disputed amounts up to $30,000.00 (since 29 October 2019). The Disputes Tribunal previously dealt with disputes involving $15,000 or less (or $20,000 by consent).

This increase is significant because compared with the District Court, the Disputes Tribunal is quick and inexpensive.  In Court a case could take more than 12-18 months to be heard, and there are many complicated rules and steps that must be followed.

Types of claims heard by the Disputes Tribunal
Many types of disputes are brought to the Disputes Tribunal. Some examples include whether certain works have been done properly; loss of/damage to property; whether a contract has been completed; whether the goods you purchased were what you asked for; and the list continues.

However, the Disputes Tribunal does not deal with claims concerning parenting (care of children); relationship property; Wills; land ownership; trade secrets; intellectual property (such as copy right); value of goodwill of a business; or benefits, taxes, and ACC rates.

Benefits of using the Disputes Tribunal process

  • Both parties have a chance to be heard;
  • Cost and time efficient;
  • Private and informal;
  • Culturally sensitive (interpreters are available);
  • Effective resolution process sanctioned by the Courts;

If location is an issue, the hearing can be heard via video-conference.

At the hearing
The hearing provides the claimant and the respondent a chance to be heard. Both parties give their account of the matter at hand, providing all evidence and law which they have to support their side of the story.

No legal representation is allowed at this stage of the process – both parties represent themselves. However, a lawyer can help parties to prepare for the hearing.

A referee determines the outcome of the matter after considering what both parties have submitted.

In most cases the tribunal may be willing to conduct a rehearing if this is applied for within 20 working days of its decision.

If a party believes that the hearing was conducted in an unfair or prejudiced manner; that party can also apply to appeal the decision to the District Court within 28 days of the hearing. Rehearings and appeals are only on limited grounds, to ensure that access to justice is quick and final.

If an order made by a referee is not complied with, a party can apply to have the order enforced.

Preparing a winning case
Although you cannot be legally represented in the Disputes Tribunal hearing, a lawyer can still assist you by giving you guidance; drafting Disputes Tribunal claim forms when you are making the claim, or drafting responses to a claim made against you; and preparing briefs of evidence on your behalf before the hearing.

It is important to be fully prepared before you make a claim at the Disputes Tribunal; or after you receive a claim made against you; and before you represent yourself at a Tribunal hearing. A good claim, or defence, can make a big difference.

While neither of the parties is represented by a lawyer at the hearing, the matter is determined by a referee (similar to a judge) who makes a binding decision. The referee makes their decision based on the relevant law and how well each party conveys their position in relation to the law. This is where the assistance of a lawyer can make a significant difference to the outcome of the matter.

We can assist you in the Disputes Tribunal by:

  • Meeting with you to assess the strength of your case and the most significant features of it;
  • Preparing and filing your application; and
  • Preparing a bundle of evidence and submissions for the Tribunal Referee to consider in the hearing.
  • Helping you outline your position in relation to the law and advise you on the best arguments to use

The increase in limit provides people with smaller (but still significant) disputes an efficient way to get a result, fast.

If you have any questions about the Dispute Resolution process or if you require assistance regarding a Disputes Tribunal claim please contact our dispute resolution team today.

Do you need assistance winning a case at the Disputes Tribunal?

Get your case on the right track – contact one of dispute resolution expert Nathan Tetzlaff today to set up an appointment.

email Nathan
+64 9 8376844

About the author

Nathan is a senior dispute resolution lawyer, with specialist experience in civil disputes, including commercial litigation and employment law. He assists clients with trust disputes, residential and commercial property disputes, construction disputes, business disputes including shareholder and franchise disputes, and
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