Can the district court determine commercial matters?

A string of recent decisions in the District Court have undermined the court’s jurisdiction, with three cases this year holding that the District Court does not have the power to determine ‘commercial matters’. This finding is based on the meaning of rule 14.2 of the Supreme Court Rules (1970), that states the Supreme Court’s Commercial Division is to hear matters arising out of commercial transactions or those in which there is an issue that has an importance in trade or commerce. The importance of ‘or’ in the rules has previously been overlooked, but in Nova 96.9 v Natvia [2018] NSWSC 1288 the court ruled these are two separate types of proceedings the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over. This is of serious concern, as it could mean all proceedings currently in the District Court regarding commercial matters will need to be transferred to the Supreme Court and any previous decisions could be appealed.

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