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What is a Statement of Claim?
5 December, 2019 | Nathan Tetzlaff
In a court case, technicalities and forms can be very important. Possibly the most important form is the Statement of Claim.
A Statement of Claim is the first document filed in most cases in the District Court or High Court. The purpose of the Statement of Claim is to explain what a plaintiff wants and their legal and factual justification for this.
It is very important to get the Statement of Claim right because anything which is not claimed will not be awarded.
That said, there are some things which should not be in the Statement of Claim. The things that people most commonly get wrong are putting evidence, proof, or witness statements in the Statement of Claim, or legal submissions. The plaintiff will need to prove their case using evidence and prove that the law applies to the particular facts of their case, but that comes later. The Statement of Claim should contain:
- The legal cause of action, which is the basis of the claim (a common cause of action is “breach of contract”);
- The material facts that support the cause of action;
- A section stating what orders the plaintiff wants as a result of the cause of action. This will usually be a sum of money, interest on the money, and compensation for the plaintiff’s costs; and
- A memo advising who is filing the Statement of Claim and where documents for service on the plaintiff can be sent.
There can be more than one cause of action in a case. For example, a construction dispute might involve a cause of action for breach of contract and a second cause of action for negligence, arising from the same set of material facts.
A Statement of Claim does not need to be a long document. A very complex case with lots of plaintiffs or defendants and a very technical cause of action might have a lengthy and complex Statement of Claim, however a simple dispute between two people might only require a Statement of Claim a couple of pages long.
Those are not very full pages either. Court documents are required to have a very wide margin and will usually have generous line spacing to make them easier to read and to provide enough space to jot notes.
A good Statement of Claim will be simple, easy-to-understand, but complete. If a Statement of Claim is shown to be incomplete or inadequate as the case progresses it will be necessary to file an amended Statement of Claim to update or improve it. This should be avoided wherever possible as there are additional filing fees, and additional costs incurred by the plaintiff and by the defendant (who is required to file a defence to any new allegations in an amended Statement of Claim).
If the plaintiff loses their case any additional work that the defendant was required to do could increase the award of costs made against the plaintiff. If the plaintiff is successful, they may not be entitled to recover the cost of amending their Statement of Claim if the court thinks that the original could have been better drafted to start with.
To a litigation lawyer, a well drafted Statement of Claim can be a work of art. We take pride in preparing Statements of Claim which are simple, effective, easily understood and complete.