Settling a case
Disputes in the Magistrates Court can be settled at any stage until judgment is given. The earlier settlement takes place, the less the costs will be.
If your claim or defence has no legal merit, you should settle your case as soon as possible even if it means paying all or some of the other party’s costs to the date of settlement. Get legal advice about what is best in your case.
• about settlement before trial
• the need for legal advice before settling
• whether an offer of settlement can be withdrawn
• consent orders
• special rules for settling claims involving a person under a legal disability
• agreements and credit ratings.
Once the court case has started, can I settle the case before a trial?
Disputes in the Magistrates Court can be settled at any stage until judgment is given.
Settlement may occur at the pre-trial conference or at any other stage as a result of negotiations between parties. If proceedings have been started as a general procedure claim in the Magistrates Court, there are rules about:
- how an offer of settlement is to be made
- how it is to be acknowledged
- how it is to be accepted, and
- how post-offer costs are to be assessed if the offer is not accepted and the claim is successful.
If you have a minor case claim against a party and that party has offered to settle part or all of your claim, you may accept that offer (or part of it) by lodging and serving a notice of acceptance on the other party at any time before the case is listed for a status conference or such other time as is ordered by the court. You must use the form for acceptance of settlement (Form 42).
Do I need legal advice before settling a claim?
You should get legal advice before you agree to settle a claim. This advice is also important to make sure that the agreement:
- is made in a legally binding way, and
- complies with any rules that state how offers are to be made and accepted.
Can acceptance of an offer of settlement in a general procedure claim be withdrawn?
If a party accepts an offer (or part of an offer), of settlement, the party may withdraw an acceptance of an offer in certain circumstances. You should get legal advice.
If a party wants to settle a case or consents to any order, they may lodge a memorandum stating this (using a Form 49). The memorandum of consent orders must be signed by each party before it is lodged with the court.
When the memorandum is lodged, the registrar may make the orders or give the judgment consented to. The registrar cannot make an order to adjourn the trial of a case or extend the time to comply with a rule of court, practice direction or order of the court.
Once the registrar makes the orders consented to, they have the same effect as a judgment made by a magistrate.
You should get legal advice before signing a memorandum of consent orders.
Special rules for settling claims involving a person under a legal disability
There are special rules for settling claims involving a person under a legal disability (for example, a person under 18) that are not dealt with here. Legal advice should always be sought before trying to finalise these claims.
Agreements and credit ratings
You may also need to consider the method of agreement you choose and how it may affect your credit rating. You should get legal advice.
Reviewed: 19 September 2022