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If someone decides to begin formal legal action against you, they may bring a claim against you in court. Therefore, it is important that you know what your options are in these situations to best protect yourself. One of these options is bringing a counterclaim against the original party. This article will go through when you can make a counterclaim in New Zealand.

Understanding Civil Claims

If someone has a legal dispute with you or your business, they can bring a civil claim in court, which you defend against by preparing arguments and evidence. Civil cases do not deal with criminal behaviour or the protection of society, but rather other matters that need litigation. Often, they are about peoples’ rights. In particular, civil cases that go to court or tribunal may cover:

  • disputes over contracts or debts;
  • insolvency;
  • neighbour disputes;
  • contracts;
  • civil wrongs that deal with a person or their property in a personal capacity, such as negligence or nuisance (known as torts);
  • family disputes or proceedings; and
  • administrative legal matters, such as immigration cases.

If another party wants to make a civil claim against you, they can make this claim to one of the various courts or tribunals dealing with their particular situation. These places include the following:

  • District Court;
  • Disputes Tribunal;
  • Employment Court; or
  • High Court.

Which court the opposing party goes to depends on the amount of money at stake and the subject matter. 

For example, if a customer wants to begin legal proceedings against you for breaching their consumer rights by selling them a faulty product, they may go to the Disputes Tribunal for this process.

What is a Counterclaim?

If someone wants to bring formal legal action against you, you will receive notification from whoever hears the case. After that, you will also receive important information from the person making this claim (known as the applicant or the plaintiff, depending on the court or tribunal you are at), such as the:

Then, you can file a counterclaim as the respondent or defendant. When you do so, you make a new claim against the original applicant or plaintiff and you swap roles. You become the person making a claim, and the other party has to defend against the evidence you bring. Therefore, you turn the situation around, bringing scrutiny onto the other party’s actions.

For example, if someone wants to bring a claim against you for a breach of contract, you could file a counterclaim saying they were negligent in fulfilling their end of the contract as well.

When Can I Make a Counterclaim?

The exact timing will vary according to which court or tribunal is hearing the case. Still, typically you can file a counterclaim as soon as possible after you receive notification of the original claim. For example, if your case is in the Disputes Tribunal, you need to file your counterclaim at least eight days before the hearing. For the District Court, you need to do so within 25 days of receiving notice from the plaintiff.

Filing your counterclaim early means that the mediator can hear both claims during the initial hearing rather than spreading them out over time.

Importantly, you can only make a counterclaim if you have enough evidence and support to bring your own claim against the other party. Therefore, you should seek legal advice to help you make sure your counterclaim is valid.

How to Make a Counterclaim

When making a counterclaim, you need to do so in the same court or tribunal that the other party brought their original claim. You can do this online, using the forms provided by the relevant entity, which you can find on their website. Often, filing a counterclaim follows the same process as filing an original claim. However, on the relevant form, you will need to specify that you are filing a counterclaim and record the reference number or code of the original claim against you.

Depending on the kind of form, you may need to:

  • address the claims or allegations of the other party;
  • provide necessary background or context for your claim;
  • explain the causes for your counterclaim;
  • specify what relief or remedy you want; and
  • provide contact details.

You will also need to submit other documentation, including any evidence you rely on and additional documents. There may also be filing fees that you need to pay depending on the kind of documentation you need.

Key Takeaways

If someone brings a civil claim against you, you can file a counterclaim that begins formal legal action against them on your behalf. When doing this, you should seek legal advice to represent your interests best. If you would like more information or help with filing a counterclaim, contact LegalVision’s New Zealand disputes lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a counterclaim?

A counterclaim is a possible option when someone brings a civil claim against you. This practice refers to bringing a new claim against that other person, which they will have to defend against.

When can I make a counterclaim?

You can make a counterclaim when you receive notice of another party bringing a claim against you. You will have a limited time to do this once you receive the notification, the exact timing of which will depend on which court or tribunal the other party brought the claim in.

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