Our team can assist you with advice in the following areas:
What is a dispute?
Disputes can arise out of a breach of a contract (or agreement), a breach of a ‘duty of care’ that one person owes to another or a breach of a statutory obligation that you owe to someone else, or they owe to you.
Where there is a contract or an agreement in place, there may be a dispute over what the contract means, if there is a contract at all, or what a person has to do to remedy a breach of that contract.
Other claims come about when damage has occurred to someone’s property and there is a dispute over who is at fault and how much a party should be compensated for the damage that has been caused.
Disputes can also arise from the actions or decisions of public officials.
How we approach disputes
At ARL Lawyers we like to take a pragmatic approach to your issues. Our aim is to resolve a dispute with the minimum amount of fuss, saving you both time and money.
Our experienced dispute resolution team will assess the pros and cons of your dispute, recognising that disputes are stressful and can be expensive to resolve. We communicate the issues in clear, easy-to-understand language offering you a number of options to meet your desired outcome. Our experience tells us that most people don’t enjoy confrontation and want to achieve certainty and finality as quickly as possible.
Disputes we can help you with
Our Dispute Resolution team will assist you if you have a:
- IRD dispute
- Construction dispute
- Leasing dispute
- Body Corporate dispute
- Insurance dispute
- Leaky home dispute (PDF)
- Employment dispute
- Civil dispute (PDF)
Do I have to go to court to resolve my dispute?
There are a number of ways to resolve a dispute without going to court. We will advise you on the options that are available to you.
What forums are available for resolving disputes?
Disputes not related to family or relationship property (these are heard in the family court), are dealt with in one of the following forums:
There are also specialist bodies that can assist you in resolving a dispute (e.g. the Ombudsman, Banking Ombudsman or Insurance and Savings Ombudsman). We will be able to advise you what options are available to you.
It is possible to sue another person in the Disputes Tribunal provided the dispute is a genuine one.
Lawyers do not appear in this tribunal, instead a Referee (who normally has some form of legal training), hears the dispute.
This tribunal is intended to help parties pursue individuals or companies relating to disputes of up to $15,000, or up to $20,000 if the person being sued gives their consent.
A Disputes Tribunal decision can be enforced in the same way as a judgment from the District Court.
This Tribunal has been formed to provide a forum for landlords and tenants, and more recently Bodies Corporate and their unit owners, to resolve their differences over rental properties and unit titles. Again, lawyers are not permitted to attend this tribunal. The Referee (who normally has some form of legal training) will oversee the tribunal hearing. They will make a decision based on the facts put before them by the landlord and tenant, or the Body Corporate and unit owner, in line with the Residential Tenancies Act or Unit Titles Act.
A Tenancy Tribunal decision can be enforced in the same way as a judgment from the District Court.
Notice of Claim
To begin a civil claim in the District Court, a plaintiff (person/s bringing a case against another), must file a Notice of Claim form in the District Court and serve a copy of the claim on one or more defendants (the individual, company or institution being sued or accused in a court of law). The Notice of Claim form summarises the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant. The plaintiff will be required to sign the Notice of Claim form confirming the facts contained in the form are true to the best of their knowledge and belief.
Response by Defendant
If the defendant does not respond to the Notice of Claim by providing a Notice of Response to the plaintiff within 30 working days from when they received the Notice of Claim form, then the plaintiff can seek judgment immediately.
If the defendant responds to the plaintiff by serving a Notice of Response (which sets out the defendant’s version of facts and circumstances and contests the defendant’s claim), the plaintiff will need to prepare an ‘information capsule.’
An Information Capsule must include all the documents a party wishes to rely on at trial and a summary of what each party believes their witness/es will say at trial. It is also necessary to include any settlement offers that have been made between the parties.
Having received the defendant’s Notice of Response form, the plaintiff must serve an Information Capsule on the defendant within 30 working days. The party receiving the Information Capsule must make a declaration on oath that the contents of the Information Capsule are true and correct to the best of their knowledge.
If the defendant wishes to continue to dispute the plaintiff’s claim, they must serve their own Information Capsule within 30 working days after it receives the plaintiff’s Information Capsule. They are also required to make a declaration on oath that the contents of the Information Capsule are true and correct to the best of their knowledge.
If the defendant fails to serve its Information Capsule on the plaintiff within 30 working days of receiving the plaintiff’s Information Capsule, the plaintiff may take the matter to court.
Notice of Pursuit of Claim
After the parties have exchanged Information Capsules and have a better understanding of each other’s position, a resolution of the dispute may be negotiated. If this is not possible, then the plaintiff is required to file all of the documents prepared to date in the District Court, along with a Notice of Pursuit of Claim. This notifies the District Court and the defendant that the plaintiff intends to continue with their claim.
The plaintiff is required to file the documents within 90 working days of receiving the defendant’s Information Capsule or their claim will come to an end. After 90 days, the Plaintiff will be entitled to recommence the claim but will be required to pay further filing fees and legal costs to do so.
Once the plaintiff has filed the Notice of Pursuit of Claim in the District Court with the other documents prepared to date, the District Court will decide if the case should go directly to a short trial or if it should be allocated to a Judicial Settlement Conference.
If a short trial is allocated, no further information will need to be exchanged between the parties before the trial takes place. At the trial, the parties and their witnesses will give oral evidence about the claim. After hearing submissions from the lawyers, the presiding District Court Judge will give a judgment. Judgment may be given immediately but sometimes the Judge will reserve their decision and deliver it on a later date.
Judicial Settlement Conference
If the case is not allocated to a short trial, a judicial settlement conference will be held. This is a meeting between the parties with a District Court Judge present who assists the parties to reach a compromise. If a compromise is not reached, the presiding District Court Judge will convene a directions conference. The purpose of a directions conference is to allocate one of the following three modes of trial that is appropriate to the circumstances of the claim:
1. Summary Judgment: Appropriate for cases where it appears the defendant has no defense to the plaintiff’s claim.
2. Simplified Trial: Appropriate for proceedings that involve one or two legal issues. The parties are also limited to one expert per area of expertise. Evidence is submitted by way of affidavit and time restrictions are placed on cross/re-examination and submissions.
3. Full Trial: Appropriate for complex cases involving multiple witnesses and expert evidence.
The High Court is the appropriate place to commence proceedings if they involve a claim of over $200,000.
High Court filing fees are significantly higher than in the District Court. The High Court rules prescribe a schedule of costs that are substantial and payable by the unsuccessful party.
Liquidations of a limited liability company are commenced by way of a statutory demand.
Note, if any money is in dispute because of a statutory demand, then it is inappropriate to commence proceedings by way of statutory demand.
The company that is served with the statutory demand has 15 working days to make an arrangement to pay the debt. If a satisfactory compromise is not reached, then the next step is to file and serve a statement of claim and an affidavit (a written statement sworn or affirmed before someone who has the legal authority to administer oaths and affirmations), in support of the claim, stating why the company should be liquidated.
Seven days after service of the statement of claim and affidavit, you are required to advertise the liquidation application against the company in a local newspaper and in the Gazette. If the company believes the debt is disputed, it will be required to make an application to the High Court to prevent advertising.
On the basis that the advertising proceeds, after providing proof of the debt to the court, your lawyer will be required to attend the High Court and obtain a liquidation order against the company. A liquidator is then appointed to sell the assets of the company. Based on other secured creditors being granted priority, it is hoped that there will be enough surplus funds available to pay the money owed under the statutory demand.
Court of Appeal/Supreme Court
If a party to High Court proceedings is dissatisfied with the High Court’s decision, that person can appeal to the Court of Appeal. If that person or the opposing side is dissatisfied with the Court of Appeal’s judgment, they can obtain leave from the Court of Appeal to be heard in the Supreme Court of New Zealand.
It is not possible to appeal a Supreme Court decision. The Supreme Court replaces the Privy Council in the United Kingdom which, until 2003, was the last forum in which to appeal a New Zealand Court of Appeal decision.