Back to reports



The civil jurisdiction of the District Court resolves disputes between individuals or organisations. A person who feels they have been wronged may bring a claim and, if successful, be awarded a remedy such as compensation.

The District Court may hear claims up to a monetary value of $350,000. A change to the District Court Rules in 2014 has produced more applications for summary judgments, which do not involve a full hearing.

Examples of common claims in the District Court include contractual disputes, where one party has not performed their obligations under an agreement, and claims in negligence where services have not been provided with a reasonable level of skill.

The majority of cases in the civil jurisdiction are resolved without proceeding to trial and are not included in the figures below.

National Statistics

There was a sharp increase in newly defended cases in 2018, a product both of an uplift in the number of summary judgment applications being brought in the District Court, and (in Christchurch) a rise in the number of earthquake claims. There was a similar rise in the number of newly defended cases in 2015 when the District Court Rules allowed summary judgment applications to be brought in the District Court as of right.

Graph showing defended civil cases.

  2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017 2017-2018

Newly Defended Cases


467 818 666 639 895
Disposals 517 747 788 671 712
Active Cases 505 581 523 520 695

Comparing the current year to the previous year has seen:

•    New defended cases increase by 256 cases (+40%)

•    Disposals increase by 41 cases (+6%

•    Active cases increase by 175 cases (+34%)