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  • The District Court’s commercial jurisdiction has been thrown into doubt by recent cases.
  • The result has been called ‘surprising’, ‘unwelcome’, ‘inconvenient’ and ‘unfortunate’ by judges of the Supreme Court.
  • It is understood that legislation may be introduced to clarify the issue but it is not known when.

A number of recent cases have considered the District Court’s jurisdiction in commercial matters. There is a difference in approach between the Court of Appeal and the Supreme and District Courts. It is hoped that either the Court of Appeal or legislation will clarify the issue soon.

Jurisdictional limits

Most practitioners are aware of the monetary limit to jurisdiction. It is $750,000 (District Court Act 1973 (‘DCA’) s 4(1)), other than in certain claims (e.g. motor accidents, workers compensation, where there is consent to unlimited jurisdiction and in some circumstances where a defendant has not objected to an extension of the jurisdiction).

Less familiar to many practitioners are the subject matter limitations to jurisdiction. It is with these limitations that this article is concerned.

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