Drafting a Statement of Claim - tips and examples
This factsheet should be used when you want to bring a claim for damages in the Queensland Magistrates, District or Supreme Court.
This factsheet is designed to help you draft a statement of claim once you have decided to bring a claim in a court and confirmed that you have a valid cause of action. Before you start drafting your statement of claim, see LawRight's factsheet Commencing court proceedings.
Before we get started
In this factsheet, "UCPR" means Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 1999.
The UCPR is the formal rules that set out how civil court claims in Queensland must be conducted, from the first step to initiate proceedings right through to what to do after the court has made final orders after the trial. If you ever need to know what the next step is in your court proceedings, or how to complete a particular step, you can look it up in the UCPR.
Drafting a statement of claim
If you do want to bring a claim for damages, you need to complete 2 separate court forms:
- UCPR Form 2: Claim
- This form sets out the specific orders and amount of damages you want, the type of claim (for example, distinguishing negligence claims from breach of contract claims) and your contact details.
- UCPR Form 16: Statement of Claim
- This form sets out the basis of your claim, including your cause of action and all of the relevant facts.
Both of these forms are available from the Queensland Courts Website.
This fact sheet will help you complete the statement of claim.
Step 1: Select the court (and registry)
See LawRight's factsheet Commencing court proceedings
Step 2: Set out your 'pleadings'
Your statement of claim contains your "pleadings", i.e. your written statement about what your claim is about and why you are entitled to damages. It is the first document that the trial judge will read and the single most important document that you will have to draft throughout the court process.
If your statement of claim does not adequately set out a proper claim, or if parts are inadequate or do not comply with the rules, you might find that the statement of claim or parts of it are "struck out." So spend some time on getting it right - research your cause of action and work out what facts you need to prove to the court. You should also consider how you will go about proving your case. You should read LawRight's factsheet on Evidence and proof in civil proceedings.
In advance, you need to know:
- (a) what cause of action are you relying on?
- (b) what are the elements of that cause of action?
- (c) what facts and circumstances in your case prove the elements of your matter?
- (d) what remedy are you seeking from the defendant?
For example, if you are suing for breach of a contract to purchase land you need to:
- (a) state that you are alleging that the contract was breached (rule 150 contains an extensive list of matters that must be "specifically pleaded" for example breach of contract, negligence, misrepresentation);
- (b) show how the defendant breached the contract, and how that breach led to the damages that you are asking the court to award you;
- (c) set out the facts of the incident in a logical order (see below);
- (d) state that the claim is for damages for breach of contract; and
- (e) outline what type of damages you are claiming and break down the amounts you are claiming (for example, lost rental income, increased transfer duty, legal costs incurred, storage costs).
If your claim is for liquidated damages, you should include the notice required under rule 150(3), setting out the total amount of the claim including any interest, as well as the court filing fees incurred by you. Liquidated damages are for a certain and known amount such as moneys owing under a debt. Unliquidated damages are damages requiring an assessment by the court such as in the example above where the court has to assess how much you should be compensated for your loss (or injury).
Putting it all together
Your statement of claim should first describe the parties to the action, e.g. "the plaintiff is a woman born on ….". If any party is a company or a body corporate it is important to plead that the company is incorporated.
You then need to draft the facts of your case. You should remember that the goal of your pleading is to tell the court and the defendant what you are alleging the defendant did (or failed to do). Tell the story as it actually happened in the order it happened. The best way to do this is to draft the statement of claim as a series of numbered short paragraphs, sometimes with sub-paragraphs, each containing a separate fact.
Paul's small family company entered into a contract to buy a small house from Deena. For some reason, the settlement didn't take place and Paul had to buy a more expensive property. Paul now wants to sue Deena to recover the money he lost because the purchase did not finalise.
Firstly, you need to describe the parties to the case and to establish that the court has jurisdiction.
1. At all material times the plaintiff was a company duly incorporated according to law and capable of being sued in its own name.
Note that a clause of this type is crucial if your case involves a company.
2. At all material times the defendant was a 34 year old women living at 100 Green Street, Brisbane in the State of Queensland.
3. At all material times the defendant was the registered owner of the property at 100 Green Street, Brisbane in the State of Queensland, being described as Lot 1 on Survey Plan 12 345 Parish of Brisbane County of Stanley in the State of Queensland.
This establishes that the Brisbane courts can hear the matter.
Next, you should go through the relevant facts. Avoid the following:
- Lengthy background material;
- Attacks on the defendant or other persons; and
4. By contract of sale dated 27 February 2009, the defendant agreed to sell the property to the plaintiff ("the purchase contract").
Note that in paragraph 4, by defining "the purchase contract", you create a short hand term to refer to this key document.
You must give sufficient "particulars" about your case. Because you are relying on a contract, you need to "specifically plead the material terms of the contract." You need to set out the terms of the contract on which you rely.
5. The material terms of the purchase contract were:
(a) The plaintiff was the Purchaser
(b) The defendant was the Vendor
(c) The purchase price was $395,000.00
(d) The plaintiff had paid a deposit of $39,500.00
(e) Settlement was to take place on 30 March 2009.
(f) At settlement, in consideration of receipt of the balance purchase price the Vendor would give to the plaintiff a signed Transfer form.
(g) Time was of the essence of the contract.
(h) That in the event that the Purchaser breached the contract, the Vendor could either affirm or terminate the contract.
6. On 16 March 2009, the plaintiff, by its solicitor Joseph Bloggs, wrote to the defendant and:
(a) Proposed that completion of the sale take place at the Land Titles Office in Brisbane on 30 March 2009 at 3:30 pm.
(b) Notified the defendant that the plaintiff proposed to tender at settlement a bank cheque in the sum of $355,500.00 payable to the defendant.
(c) Requested that the defendant confirm the details of the bank cheques that the defendant required at settlement.
7. The defendant failed to respond to the plaintiff's letter of 16 March 2009.
8. On 26 March 2009 the plaintiffs solicitor wrote to the defendant and advised that in light of the defendant's refusal to confirm arrangements for settlement the defendant would tender for settlement in accordance with the letter of Joseph Bloggs dated 16 March 2009.
9. On 30 March 2009:
(a) Joseph Bloggs, solicitor, attended at the Titles Office with a Bank Cheque to the defendant in the sum of $ 355,500.00 payable to the defendant.
(b) The plaintiff was ready willing and able to complete the sale contract and has performed the sale contract except so far as the plaintiff was prevented by the default of the defendant.
(c) The defendant neglected, failed or refused to complete the purchase contract.
10. By facsimile letter sent at 5:05 pm on 30 March 2009, Joseph Bloggs, solicitor, gave notice to the defendant that:
(a) the defendant had failed to complete the purchase contract
(b) the plaintiff elected to terminate the contract
(c) the plaintiff intended to institute proceedings seeking damages against the defendant.
Having gone through the facts, the next step is to set out the legal consequences of those facts.
11. As a result of the matters pleaded in paragraph 9, the defendant was in breach of the purchase contract.
12. On 5 May 2009 the plaintiff completed the purchase of a property at 100 Red Street, Brisbane for the sum of $500,000.00.
Next - set out the losses or damages that you wish to claim
13. As a result of the defendant's breach of contract, the plaintiff suffered losses namely:
(a) Legal fees and expenses of the sale contract $2,799.34 thrown away
(b) Storage costs of the plaintiff's furniture for the property $5,250.00
(c) Lost rental income from the property $2,500.00
(d) Additional stamp duty paid on the alternative investment property $ 5,000.00
(e) Additional monies expended to purchase an investment property $105,000.00.
14. The plaintiff claims damages for breach of contract in the sum of $120,549.34.
- Be as brief as the nature of the case permits and avoid repetition
- This is very important. Sometimes, self represented litigants think that they have to include every little detail about what happened and will often repeat the same allegations to feel sure that the court understands their problem. This is not necessary and can be counter-productive. If you make your point clearly and simply, it puts the point in issue. A short, "one off" concise statement of your case makes your statement of claim more persuasive than repeating the same points a number of times. You will be able to go into more detail at the trial. You want the judge to quickly get the overall picture at this stage to see the merit of your claim.
- Avoid lengthy passages
- This will make it easier for the court to understand the issues in your case, and allow you and the defendant to focus on the most important issues in your case.
- Do not anticipate the defence - just include the facts you need to establish your case
- It is often tempting to arrange a statement of claim so that it not only sets out your case, but also deals with the matters that you think the defendant will raise. Avoid doing this. Your statement of claim should deal only with the facts that show your case. You will have an opportunity to respond to the defendant's version of the facts in your reply.
- Do not include the evidence by which the facts are to be proved
- The discovery and trial stages are when you produce and test the evidence. The pleading stage (statement of claim, defence and reply) is just to tell the story of what happened from the perspectives of the parties involved in the dispute.
- State specifically any matter that if not stated specifically may take another party by surprise
- Don't hold back any issue to keep it up your sleeve for the trial. If you do, you may not be permitted to raise it or you may be required to pay the other party's costs of responding to the new point at the late stage of the proceedings.
Examples of what not to do
In the above example:
- Paul drafts a 50 page statement of claim, which outlines the entire history of his dealings with Deena.
- Paul outlines at some length his suspicions that Deena had needed the sale proceeds to pay for her mother-in-law to enter a nursing home, but that with her mother-in-law's death a week after the contract was signed, this was no longer needed.
- Paul believes that Deena intends to raise a defence that Paul had improperly pressured Deena into signing the contract. Paul includes a lengthy series of paragraphs that attempt to refute this defence.
- In his statement of claim Paul accuses Deena of dishonesty and fraud and says that she is a liar.
- Have I completed court Forms 2 and 16?
- Are my pleadings as brief as the nature of the case permits?
- Have I included all the material facts I am relying on?
- Have I specifically pleaded any matter I am required to under rule 150?
- Have I stated what relief I am seeking?
- Have I stated what section of any Act that I am relying on?
- Have I given enough information to define the issues at trial?
- Will the defendant be able to understand and respond to my claim?
- If my clam is for liquidated damages, have I included the notice under rule 150(3)?
- Does my claim inform the defendant of the date before which they must file a notice of intention to defend and the consequences of them failing to a file a notice within the time limit?
The information in this resource is for general information purposes only. If you would like help with a legal problem, you may be eligible for assistance from a LawRight service or clinic.
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