Statutory Interest vs Contractual Interest – a useful distinction

A recent decision of the Supreme Court of Queensland, Platinum Investment Group Pty Ltd v Emily Skye Anderson and Ors [2018] QSC 2 (“Platinum”) provides useful guidance for practitioners and self-represented litigants alike about which Court a claim should be filed in.

We are all aware of the monetary jurisdictional limits which apply to claims commenced in the Magistrates Court (up to $150,000), District Court (>$150,000 to $750,000) and Supreme Court (> $750,000).

Statutory interest, as provided for under section 58 of the Civil Proceedings Act 2011, is at the discretion of the Court, and is excluded from the amount of the claim in determining which Court to bring the claim in.  But what about contractual interest? Is it treated differently by the Courts?

The question arose in Platinum as to whether contractual interest is included in the claim amount for the purposes of determining whether the District Court has jurisdiction.

In Platinum, the Court provides an interesting analysis of the history of the relevant provisions of the District Court of Queensland Act and the relevant authorities on the treatment of interest in the relevant context.  Ultimately, the Court concluded that contractual interest should be treated differently to statutory interest and should be factored into the amount of the claim when considering what Court a claim should be brought in.  In other words, in a District Court claim for example, if the contractual interest, together with the amount of the claimed debt exceeds or is likely to exceed the amount of $750,000, then that claim should correctly be brought in the Supreme Court.

In Platinum, an application was brought by Platinum to inter alia transfer the proceedings from the District Court to the Supreme Court on the basis that since the claim was filed, the interest amount increased significantly due to the contractual rate of interest being 10% per month.  Therefore, the amount of the claim including the debt and interest exceeded the monetary limit of the District Court and on that basis the Supreme Court found that the matter should be transferred to the Supreme Court pursuant to section 25 of the Civil Proceedings Act.

Practitioners and self-represented litigants should be careful in circumstances where there is a significant component of contractual interest accrued or to accrue being claimed (for instance high interest loans), and assuming the plaintiff does not elect to abandon a claim for part or all of the interest accrued or accruing to keep the claim in a lower Court, to ensure the claim is filed in the correct jurisdiction.

A risk in not doing so is the plaintiff may find themselves forced to seek an order from the Court to transfer the proceedings to a higher court and therefore expose themselves to further costs and delay, which could have otherwise been avoided where a claim was filed in the correct Court to begin with.

If you require clarification or advice about a dispute, please contact one of our experienced team of lawyers at McLaughlins Lawyers, your Gold Coast Lawyers.

Author: Matt Kollrepp

Director: Ian Kennedy

Date: 16.01.2018