R 14.12 of the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005 (NSW) (UCPR) (all references are to the UCPR unless otherwise stated) allows for a Statement of Claim to be pleaded in short form in certain money claims.

Pros – may increase efficiency:

To plead facts in short form, the pleading must simply include one of the phrases contained in UCPR 14.12 (1) (a)-(h). A commonly invoked sub rule is r 14.12(1)(c) – a claim for money payable for ‘work done or materials provided by the plaintiff for the defendant at the defendant’s request’. The discovery of the rule came as quite the revelation for me in my graduate year. In debt recovery matters for outstanding professional costs in the Local Court often there is not a dispute in relation to whether work was actually performed. UCPR 14.12, specifically sub rule (1)(c)[1] enabled me to effectively prepare and commence many matters in a timely and cost-efficient manner, circumventing the need to draft detailed Statements of Claims.

At first glance, r 14.12 does not necessarily sit well with the rules requiring adequate pleadings, such as the requirement to plead more than just the general issue (r 14.20), or the powers of the Court that permit the striking out of pleadings, such as for failing to disclose a reasonable cause of action (r 14.28(a)) or pleadings that would otherwise have a tendency to cause prejudice, embarrassment or delay in the proceedings (r 14.28 (b)). However, r 14.12 provides plaintiffs with a quick and cheap resolution to debt recovery claims, and the ability to obtain Default Judgments, in circumstances where there is no dispute between the parties in relation to performance of services/work or quantum of the claims.

Pitfalls – may increase costs

Avoiding the preparation of detailed Statements of Claims may be appealing to solicitors trying to ply through a large volume of files. However, reliance on short-form pleadings may create more work and further legal costs for the following reasons:

  1. R 14.12 (2) allows any defendant served with a Statement of Claim in short form to file a notice requiring the plaintiff to plead the full facts within 28 days (i.e. the same time limit the defendant has in filing a defence). The effect of the notice is that a plaintiff is required to file an amended statement of claim within 28 days from the service of the notice (r 14.12 (4) (a)(i)); and
  2. Even if a defendant does not file a notice requiring the plaintiff to plead the full facts and instead opts to file a defence, the short form pleading will likely be subject to a defendant’s request for further and better particulars pursuant to r 15.1, or a direction from the Court, so that the defendant can be in a sufficient position to understand the case it has to meet.

These are appropriate measures put in place so that permitted shortcuts of plaintiffs in money claims do not displace rules of procedural fairness afforded to defendants. Before utilising r 14.12 plaintiffs must assess the nature of the claim, the relationship between the parties and whether or not it is likely that the defendant will become an active party to the proceeding. Ultimately, the question is whether the defendant or the Court will likely take issue with the extent and nature of the plaintiff’s claim.

For further information or should you require any assistance, please contact John Fairgray (Partner) jfairgray@bbwlaw.com.au, Luis Ormazabal (Senior Associate) lormazabal@bbwlaw.com.au or Andi Warda (Solicitor) awarda@bbwlaw.com.au.