Litigation Update: Increases in the civil jurisdictional limits of the District Court and the Small Claims Tribunal

The Legislative Council passed resolutions on 27 June 2018 to raise the upper financial limits on the civil jurisdiction of the Small Claims Tribunal (“SCT”) and the District Court (“DC”) in certain matters. In other words, both the SCT and DC will have the power to deal with claims of a larger amount. Such resolutions will come into operation on 3 December 2018.

The changes are as follows:

Jurisdictional LimitLimit before 3 Dec 2018Limit on or after 3 Dec 2018
DC: general jurisdiction in actions of contract, quasi-contract and tortHK$1 millionHK$3 million
DC: proceedings for recovery of land or relating to title in land (in terms of annual rent or rateable value of the land or annual value of the land)HK$240,000HK$320,000
DC: equity jurisdiction (e.g. specific performance and injunction, etc.) in proceedings related to landHK$3 millionHK$7 million
DC: equity jurisdiction in proceedings unrelated to landHK$1 millionHK$3 million

The jurisdiction of the High Court (“HC”) is unlimited.

The fees for filing a claim at the SCT has also been revised as follows:-

Current range of claim amountRevised range of claim amountFee
Claims not exceeding HK$3,000Claims not exceeding HK$5,000HK$20
Claims exceeding HK$3,000 but not exceeding HK$17,000Claims exceeding HK$5,000 but not exceeding HK$25,000HK$40
Claims exceeding HK$17,000 but not exceeding HK$33,000Claims exceeding HK$25,000 but not exceeding HK$50,000HK$70
Claims exceeding HK$33,000 but not exceeding HK$50,000Claims exceeding HK$50,000 but not exceeding HK$75,000HK$120

In line with the approach for the previous civil jurisdictional limit adjustments, there is no mechanism for the transfer from the DC to the SCT in respect of civil cases already filed at the DC before the commencement date of the Resolutions. The DC will continue to deal with civil cases with claim amounts between HK$50,001 and HK$75,000 which have already been filed at the DC prior to 3 December 2018.

Representation in different levels of Court

For proceedings in the SCT, parties are not allowed to have legal representation, but they can still consult a lawyer before attending any hearing.

For proceedings in the DC, parties can have legal representation or act in person. In the latter case, if any of the parties is a limited company, a duly authorized director may act for such party by filing a required affidavit.

For proceedings in the HC, if any of the parties is a limited company, it must be represented by a solicitor (unless leave is granted by the Registrar).

Legal costs in different levels of Court

The changes are expected to bring about better access to justice for the public as, in general, legal costs incurred in proceedings in the DC are lower than those in the HC. The adjustments are also intended to allow better distribution of cases between the HC, the DC and the SCT.

Notwithstanding the above, litigation can be costly, stressful and time-consuming in all levels of Court. If you have any questions about commencing proceedings, merits of potential claims or any other matters relating to conducting litigation in the Hong Kong Courts, please do not hesitate to contact our solicitors.


Nick Gall, Senior Partner
Tel +852 3405 7688

Yandy Lam, Associate
Tel +852 3405 7612