Hi, i need to find out if a person has money to see if it is worth suing them. How do I do this with minimal cost? I'm in South Australia, Thanks,

There's a couple of things you can, Faith do to find out if someone has assets before you sue them. Here goes:

  • If the person you are suing is a natural person (like... a person person, not a company) you can find out if they own any property by doing a title search of their name using a title search database like SAI Global. A title search will tell you if that person has any land registered in their name and also if they own it outright, with someone else as a joint tenant or a tenant in common or if there are other people with an interest on the land like a mortgage or another debtor. If they have land they may have $$$$$$ or you can sue them for it. A SAI Global search is under $100 per search.
  • If the person you are suing is a person person then you can also do a basic search on the Australian and Securities Investment Commission (ASIC) website to see if they are directors of any companies. A search on a database like SAI Global will allow you to see if they are office holders or shareholders in a company, the name of that company and if it's publicly listed you can go and see how much profit they have made, just to get an idea. Searching the ASIC register is free but the free search doesn't give you a lot of information, SAI Global is under $100.
  • The Rules of Court for the Supreme Court of South Australia (and rules for the other courts) have rules regarding the disclosure of documents; that is when the court forces the other party to make documents available to you that you need to mount your case against them. Discovery only kicks in once you start the court process, so you need to file a case in the court first and then make an application to the court for discovery. Discover could include a variety of documents that could show someone's income, business activity and so on, it all depends on what you're suing them over. To give you an example of some of those rules:
136—Obligation to disclose documents

(1) Each party must disclose the documents that are, or have been, in the party’s possession and—
[paragraph 136(1)(a) amended by Supreme Court Civil Rules 2006 (Amendment No.21)]
(a) are directly relevant to any issue raised in the pleadings or affidavits filed in lieu of pleadings; or
(b) are to be disclosed by order of the Court.

(2) The disclosure is made by filing in the Court a list of documents in the approved form.
— R.136 Rules of Court, SA
  • If the person you are suing is a company (which has legal personality, so under the law a company is a person too) then you can do a search on the ASIC register to see if that company is in the process of being wound up; if they are, then your chances don't look good. Searching the ASIC register is free but the free search doesn't give you a lot of information, SAI Global is under $100.
  • If the person is a company then you can do a bit more digging around as to their profits and assets by also running ASIC searches to see if the company is a shelf company or if the company owns other companies or if the company owns property.

Ultimately, litigation is a gamble for a whole lot of reasons.  What you gamble when you sue someone is that they are going to have enough money to cover the loss or damage you have suffered.  Court is expensive, lawyers are more so and the whole thing is really stressful.  Before you sue someone think about whether you may be able to find another solution to your problem like mediation.  

Mediation doesn't sound as sexy as going to court does but it's a lot cheaper, easier and depending on your reason for suing may leave you feeling a lot happier afterwards.