Getting ready for trial
What happens at court before a trial?
The court will try to help the parties resolve a case without it going to a trial.
- general procedure claims - within 14 days after being served with a statement of defence, the claimant has to put in the form to request a pre-trial conference, or the parties can agree to have a pre-trial conference before the claimant is served with a statement of defence, or a statement of defence and counterclaim
- non-consumer/trader minor case claims - a registrar must list a case for a status conference within 14 days after the defendant lodges a response
- consumer/trader minor case claims - a registrar must list a case for a status conference as soon as possible after the claim is made and the time has passed for making any related third party claim.
The registrar will let the parties know in writing when and where their conference is on.
What is a status conference?
The purpose of the status conference is to allow the case to be managed by a magistrate.
The magistrate can do things such as make orders about lodging and serving documents and work out what facts if any are agreed to by the parties.
You need to have thought about things such as:
- how you will make out (sometimes called 'prove') your case if you are the claimant, for example, what documents you have to back up your claim
- how you will defend your case if you are the defendant
- how many witnesses you will have
- any special requirements, eg interpreters.
If you have not had legal advice about your case before a status conference you should get it.
What is a pre-trial conference?
It is a compulsory meeting between the parties to attempt settlement of a case before a registrar. In general procedure claims a party must attend unless a registrar or the court orders otherwise.
In minor case claims you must attend the status conference and pre-trial conference in person. With written authorisation from a party given to the court, a party's insurer can represent or help their insured at these conferences but not at a trial.
If a party’s attendance is likely to cause undue expense or the party is ill, the party may apply to the registrar before the pre-trial conference for the hearing to be conducted by audio link.
You don’t need to bring witnesses to a pre-trial conference.
If a party doesn’t go to a pre-trial conference, the registrar at the pre-trial conference may give default judgment against the party.
What happens at a pre-trial conference?
The registrar tries to bring all parties to a settlement that is agreeable to all. The registrar can do things such as make orders about lodging and serving documents and work out what facts if any are agreed to by the parties.
At a pre-trial conference where liability is admitted but the amount claimed is disputed, the registrar may make orders to facilitate settlement, or make sure the case is ready to be listed for a hearing at which the court assess the amount to be awarded, or list the case for a hearing for this to happen.
The case if not listed for a further pre-trial conference it will be listed for a trial. The registrar will let the parties now the date in writing.
My case is listed for a mediation conference. Do I have to go?
The court can order parties to go to mediation to try to settle a dispute. You have to go unless the mediator approves otherwise.
If the case is not settled at mediation conference, a registrar must list the case for another status conference in a general procedure case and another pre-trial conference in a minor case claim and let the parties know in writing.
Reviewed: 30 June 2020