DISPUTE RESOLUTION & LITIGATION
- contract disputes / breach of contract
- property and neighbourhood disputes
- consumer claims – unfair contracts and misrepresentation
- debt recovery and insolvency issues
- commercial and retail leasing disputes
- building and construction matters
- employment disputes and unfair dismissal
- property damage claims
- motor vehicle accident claims
- personal injury claims
Alternative Dispute Resolution
- more creative solutions than what would normally be available through court orders
- less adversarial processes than a court hearing with a lower threshold for the presentation of evidence
- greater control over the outcome, which is not possible if a matter proceeds to litigation and a court makes orders
- an opportunity to preserve the relationship between the disputing parties
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) resolves legal disputes and cases in Victoria, is less formal than a court and hears and decides cases according to the law. VCAT’s main purpose is to provide an accessible, efficient, and low-cost tribunal which focuses on the handling and mediation of disputes.
VCAT can hear a range of matters including disputes about goods and services, residential tenancies, building and construction, equal opportunity, owners’ corporations, and planning disputes.
Some matters, such as building disputes, will require parties to settle their dispute through conciliation with a Tribunal member. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, they will be referred to a hearing. You do not need legal representation at VCAT, however if you wish to have a lawyer represent you, you need to notify the other party beforehand.
VCAT orders are treated the same as court orders.
Going to Court
Unfortunately, not all matters are resolved through ADR and sometimes your only option may be to commence or defend proceedings in court. If this is the case, getting the procedure right is critical to securing a good outcome and avoiding costs orders.
Litigation is the commencement of legal proceedings in a relevant court or tribunal with jurisdiction to hear and determine a matter in dispute and order a remedy. Legal action must be commenced within a prescribed time, otherwise the claim may become statute barred. Before commencing litigation, you should obtain an objective assessment of the legal and practical merits of your case.
Once an action commences in court, the parties must comply with practice directions and court processes regarding the filing and service of documents, participation in dispute resolution (where relevant), the format of evidence, and attendance at directions hearings, status conferences and pre-trial hearings.
Parties involved in a litigated legal dispute may settle the matter at any stage without proceeding to a final hearing. In such cases they will need to enter into a deed of settlement and consent orders to dispose of the proceedings in court.
Does somebody owe you money?
If somebody owes you or your business money, it can be frustrating trying to recover your entitlement to those funds. There are different ways to pursue an unpaid debt and it is important to choose the method that is likely to produce the best result in the circumstances. This might require consideration of the debtor entity (if a company, serving a statutory demand under the Corporations Act 2001 may be viable), the amount owed, whether the debt is disputed, and whether there is specific legislation relevant to recovering the type of debt owed.
You may commence legal action under the small claims division in the Magistrates Court. The Magistrate’s Court provides a simple debt recovery procedure that is relatively informal and can deal with debt recovery claims up to the value of $100,000. Proceedings for debt recovery claims above $100,000 can be brought in the County or Supreme Court of Victoria.