On 13th November 2012 the South Australian State Parliament passed rules to significantly change the jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court. In terms of the extent of claims that they can hear, they are now entitled to deal with civil disputes of up to $100,000, including in the specialty jurisdictions of building and construction law, defacto property disputes under the Domestic Partners Property Act, the Mining Act, and the Retail and Commercial Leases Act. This means that claims of up to $100,000 can be dealt with in the Magistrates Court jurisdiction at the location of the Court closest to where the dispute arose.
The other major change is that the Minor Civil jurisdictional limit will increase to $25,000. This means that any general dispute, or a dispute in any of the specialty areas above, will be dealt with in the usual course without lawyers appearing. Lawyers will only be entitled to appear if both parties to the dispute agree that lawyers should appear.
As a result of this change, legal fees in disputes for less than $25,000 will now in most circumstances, not be recoverable from the other side (unless, for example, you have a contract that allows you to recover fees), even if you win. As far as lawyers are concerned, this may well cause some problems with access to justice. For example, where you owe a debt to an insurance company and they can send their experienced assessor to Court, you may not be able to have a lawyer to attend to defend you. There are also many claims that may be for less than $25,000 but still involve specialist legal advice.
However, your MSI Legal Advisor will still be able to assist you with all legal matters and advise how we can best do so and when you are still able to claim your costs.