Settling a case
Once the court case has started, can I settle the case before a trial?
Disputes in the Magistrates Court can be settled at any stage until judgment is given.
Settlement may occur at the pre-trial conference or at any other stage as a result of negotiations between parties. If proceedings have been started as a general procedure claim in the Magistrates Court, there are rules about:
- how an offer of settlement is to be made
- how it is to be acknowledged
- how it is to be accepted, and
- how post-offer costs are to be assessed if the offer is not accepted and the claim is successful.
If you have made a minor case claim against a party and that party has offered to settle part of all of your claim, you may accept that offer or part of it, by lodging and serving a notice of acceptance on the other party at any time before the case is listed for a pre-trial conference. You must use the form for acceptance of settlement (Form 42).
Do I need legal advice before settling a claim?
You should get legal advice before you agree to settle a claim. This advice is also important to make sure that the agreement is made in a legally binding way and to make sure it complies with any rules that state how offers are to be made and accepted.
Can acceptance of an offer of settlement in a general procedure claim be withdrawn?
If a party accepts an offer, or part of an offer, of settlement, the party may withdraw an acceptance of an offer in certain circumstances. Get legal advice.
A defendant may contact you to see whether a settlement can be arranged by consent. If you reach an agreement both parties should complete and sign a memorandum of consent order form (Form 49) and return it to the court registry where the claim was started.
When the memorandum is lodged the registrar may make the orders or give the judgment consented to. The registrar cannot make an order to adjourn the trial of a case, or extend the time to comply with a rule of court, practice direction or order of the court. Once the registrar makes the orders as consented to, they have the same effect as a judgment made by a magistrate.
You should get legal advice before signing consent orders.
Special rules for settling claims involving a person under a legal disability
There are special rules for settling claims involving a person under a legal disability (for example, a person under 18) that are not dealt with here. Legal advice should be sought.
Agreements and credit ratings
You may also need to consider the method of agreement you choose and how it may affect your credit rating. If a party accepts an offer of settlement, either party to the offer may lodge a request for judgment in terms of the offer. Get legal advice.
Reviewed: 11 April 2018