Small Claims Tribunal
- Last Updated on 02 September 2013
The Small Claims Tribunal was established under the Small Claims Tribunal Decree -1991 in Fiji to provide prompt and inexpensive relief to Claimants.
Each Small Claims Tribunal is a division of a Magistrates Court of that particular jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of the Small Claims Tribunal is exercised by a Referee or by a Resident Magistrate.
What types of cases are heard?
Small Claims Tribunal deals with any claim which does not exceed $5000. The Tribunal deals with claims such as:
- Debt recovery
- Service charges
- Damage to property
- Consumer claims
- Work order
The Tribunal does not deal with claims for:
- Recovery of wages or related employment grievances
- The recovery of land or any estate or interest therein
- In which the title to any land or any estate or interest therein, is in question
You may abandon part of your claim if it exceeds $5000.00 in order to bring the claim within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. You cannot divide your claim into 2 or more claims to bring within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.
Orders of the Small Claims Tribunal
The Tribunal may order;
- a party to the proceedings to pay money to any other party;
- declaring that a person is not liable to another in respect of a claim or demand for money, the delivery of goods or chattels, or that work be performed;
- a party to deliver specific goods or chattels to another party to the proceedings;
- make a work order against any party;
- vary any agreement or setting it aside;
- dismissing the claim.
How do I file a Claim?
To claim in the Small Claims Tribunal, you will be required to obtain and fill out Form 1 and make 3 copies. The following information is essential:
- Correct details of both the parties – if possible please provide phone numbers
- Correct particulars of claim outlining briefly and succinctly the facts of your claim and the basis of your claim. This need not be very legal in nature and if you are unable to fill this, the Registry staff can be requested to assist.
- Attach all necessary relevant documents to support your case.
- The exact amount you wish to claim
The clerk at the registry will give you the appropriate forms to file your claim and can help you with limited information. However, he or she cannot give you legal advice.
After you have filled the claim form you will be required to swear under oath before a Justice of Peace or a Commissioner for Oaths. You will have to pay the $5.75 filing fees. The fees must be paid in cash or company cheque. We do not accept personal cheques.
Where do I go to file the claim?
You can file the claim at the nearest Tribunal where you (Claimant) reside. See locations.
Can my lawyer help me with my case?
Certainly, your lawyer can help you get ready for your Small Claims Tribunal case, organize your evidence for you and advise you on what to say. However, a lawyer will not be able to be present with you in the Small Claims Tribunal.
How will the Respondent know I have filed?
After you have lodged the claim the Registry will give you the stamped Form. You have to serve the Claim Form on the Respondent by delivering a copy. The Tribunal will give you information on how the notice may be served. Anybody can serve the Claim Form to the Respondent.
What do I do next?
You must ensure that your claim is served at least 10 clear days before the hearing and the Affidavit of Service is filed at least 3 days before the hearing date. Always verify the trial date with the court clerk and be at the courthouse early. You may need time to park and find the room where your case will be heard.
What must the Respondent do?
The Respondent after being served with a claim should check the date of hearing and make note to attend hearing. If the Respondent agrees with the claim then on the date of the hearing an agreed settlement can be done and consent order made. The Respondent can also file a counterclaim by filing Form 1 at the Tribunal Registry and serve on the Claimant. The Respondent should gather his relevant evidence and come prepared for hearing the date.
What if the Claimant or Respondent fails to attend?
Unless the claimant informs the Tribunal well in advance, the claim will be dismissed. If the Respondent fails to attend the Tribunal will proceed to hear the claim provided the affidavit of service is filed.
Application for a Re-hearing
Application for rehearing may be made within 14 days of the date of order if you have a valid reason for not being present on the date of hearing. You have to fill Form 5 and pay $11.50 fees.
What happens in court?
The referee will first present the opportunity for mediation. The referee will facilitate communication between parties in an attempt to reach agreement. If you do not reach an agreement or do not wish to mediate, the referee will listen to each side. This is called a hearing. Both the mediation and the hearing will take place on the same day. You should allow two to three hours for the entire process. If you have a hearing, bring your witnesses. Also bring any pictures, diagrams, account books, bills, receipts, contracts, notes, dishonoured checks or other evidence that will help the referee. The referee may also make enquiries about your case and particulars of such enquiry will be made known to parties at the Hearing. The referee will make a decision based on the evidence available before him.
What happens during the hearing?
Usually, the tribunal will go through a claim call. Answer when your case is called. Most referees will briefly explain the procedure to be used in your trial. If you are confused about anything he or she says, or if you have other questions, do not be afraid to ask the Referee. You may be required to take oath. If you are the claimant, you will have the first chance to tell your story. You should be thoroughly prepared. Ask the referee if you may call on your witnesses, and present any documents or photos. After you and your witnesses have told the Referee your story, the Respondent will have a chance to tell his or her story. After the Referee has heard the facts from both sides, including witnesses, and everyone has asked all their questions, the Referee will make a decision. If the Referee wants more time to think about the case, he or she will tell you when you can expect a decision.
What happens after a decision is made?
When the Referee makes a decision, he or she will write an Order which will be typed. Both parties will receive the order.
How do I collect the Order?
It is your responsibility to collect your Order and serve it on the other party within 7 days. If you have received a Judgment and the Respondent refuses to pay it, you may file for Judgment Debtor Summons (JDS). The Small Claims Tribunal will provide the Application for Enforcement Form to be filled by you. You will have to pay $17.25 for filing JDS. You also may file a Writ of FIFA to seize the respondent’s property. You will have to pay a fee for this. You will also have to pay for the Sheriffs travelling expenses and provide an indemnity.
What if I am not happy with the decision in my case?
If you feel that the referee was bias and unfair in conducting the hearing or exceeded the Jurisdiction, you can file an appeal within 14 days of the date of Order. You have to fill Form 6 and pay $11.50 fees. Please visit the Tribunal Registry to fill an appeal form. The appeal will be heard at the Magistrate's Court and you will be advised by the Magistrate's Court of the hearing date.