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A statement of claim is one of the earliest and most important documents you will need to draft if you want to take a legal claim to court in New Zealand. The statement of claim should set out: 

  • the description of your case; 
  • what you think the legal problem is; and 
  • what consequences (called ‘remedies’) from the court you are seeking. 

However, writing this document can be more challenging than it seems. This article sets out three tips to think about when drafting a statement of claim, including: 

  • doing your legal research; 
  • being as descriptive as possible about your problem factually and legally; and 
  • showing your working when you ask the court for a certain amount of money as compensation.

Do Your Legal Research First

Understanding what the relevant law is for your legal problem is the most important thing to keep in mind when drafting an effective statement of claim. While you may know the factual substance of the dispute or claim in detail, you should take the time to do legal research to understand what the relevant law might be. 

This changes depending on the context of your dispute: 

  • a broken contract means you should understand the terms and conditions of that contract; and
  • a dispute about property means you need to research the relevant property law and understand where the legal obligations lie. 

Remember that there is often a difference between what is commonly understood between parties and what the legal relationship or legal obligations may be. Even if the other party has behaved in a way that you find inappropriate or not in good faith, they may not have actually broken any laws or their legal obligations.

Consequently, understanding the relevant law should be an initial step when you set about drafting a statement of claim.

Be Descriptive About Your Problem

A statement of claim is your opportunity to set the scene for your legal problem or dispute. You should take that opportunity to provide as much detail and context as possible. This helps the judge or other party reviewing the case to understand what happened and how the legal issue arose. It is often useful to remember that these parties will have zero context in most cases about your:

  • business;
  • case; and
  • relationship with other involved parties. 

You should start from the beginning and explain the starting point and relevant context about your problem. 

In terms of what to practically include, think about including as many specific details as possible. Your statement of claim will be more powerful if it makes reference to specific:

  • locations; 
  • amounts; 
  • agreements; and 
  • times. 

Writing directly and with concrete facts will help to convey your claim in the most effective way possible. 

Show Your Working When Asking for Compensation 

An important part of your statement of claim is when you set out what solution (i.e. ‘relief’ or ‘remedy’) you are seeking from the court to resolve your legal claim. This often involves compensation or some other payment of money. For example, you may be claiming damages for breach of contract or seeking the recovery of a sum of money. When you are setting out your problem, it is best to be as clear as possible with concrete amounts. 

When asking for compensation from the court to resolve your legal problem, one additional tip is to show your working. If you have calculated a certain amount of compensation that would fix the issue or resolve the problem, you should explain in your statement of claim how you arrived at that number. This leaves no room for confusion when the court considers your claim. 

For instance, if you are claiming for lost income at your store or business, you should detail how many days of lost income you are claiming and what the amount lost comes to in total.

Key Takeaways

Drafting a statement of claim is an important step in a litigation process. It gives you the opportunity to set the context for your legal problem and detail why you feel you are in the legal right. Some things to consider when drafting a statement of claim involve: 

  • doing your research first about the relevant law and legal obligations; and
  • letting this research underpin your whole claim to show what you are working towards providing with your claim. 

You should also provide as much relevant detail as possible to support your claim, including the calculations behind the remedies or compensation you are seeking from the court. If you want to know more about drafting a statement of claim or need assistance, contact LegalVision’s disputes and litigation lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should you do legal research when drafting a statement of claim?

There are lots of helpful resources online depending on what area of law you are researching (employment law, company law, etc.). The Community Law manual at  https://communitylaw.org.nz/ has many helpful links. 

How descriptive should you be when drafting a statement of claim?

You should be as descriptive as possible without detailing irrelevant material. In other words, provide all the factual context that you think is relevant to your legal claim and the reasons why you believe that another party is legally in the wrong in some way. You should also be relatively detailed when setting out what remedies or compensation you seek from the court. 

Where should you file a statement of claim?

You should file it with the District Court or High Court that is closest to the respondent’s home or place of business.

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