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A simplified civil process will apply to Magistrate Court claims filed on or after 1 November 2014. The new process features upfront disclosure of documents together with early and robust case management. The primary aim is to facilitate early resolution of the dispute. Please refer to Order 108 of the Rules of Court and Part III of the State Courts Practice Directions for the detailed requirements and procedure.
Below is a table summarising the key features of the simplified process and the consequential changes to be implemented to the procedure for MC cases.
a. Parties are required to file and serve a list of relevant documents with their pleadings. Copies of the documents in the list are to be furnished within 7 days of a written request.
b. Upfront disclosure of documents will give parties early information of each other's cases to facilitate early assessment and to consider options going forward.
c. The list of documents is to be served with the relevant pleading on the other party within the time limited for service. If a written request for a copy of any document on the other party's list of documents is not met within 7 days of request, the party making the request may file an application for production. Where further and better particulars are filed which refer to or plead new documents, a list of such documents is to be attached to the further and better particulars. A list of documents may be amended if need be.
d. The timelines for the filing and service of pleadings remain as provided under the Rules of Court. Any default by parties in complying with the requirement to file the list of documents will be dealt with at the CMC.
Early and Robust Case Management
a. The CMC is central to the simplified process. It will generally be convened within 50 days after the Defence is filed. The notice to attend CMC will be sent approximately 21 days before the CMC. A party can also write in to ask for an earlier CMC.
b. The court will help parties identify and narrow the issues, deal with relevant interlocutory matters including the need for interlocutory applications and discuss follow up case management. In appropriate cases, eg where parties are not far apart in amicably resolving the dispute, the court will as far as possible assist the parties to reach a settlement at the CMC. The solicitor in charge of the case (i.e. the solicitor who has been handling the matter and who is familiar with it) should attend the CMC. The court may require a party which is represented by a solicitor to attend the CMC. The solicitors are expected to be prepared to discuss all relevant matters with the CMC judge.c. Solicitors should also ensure that their clients are fully informed of the option of using alternative dispute resolution before attending the CMC. They are expected to advise their clients and to take instructions on the desirability of referring the dispute for ADR.
Steps that should be taken before the CMC
d. After the filing of the Defence, but before the CMC, parties are to exchange proposals and negotiate with a view to settling the matter at the earliest opportunity. In order that parties benefit from a CMC, parties are required to do the following, 7 days before the CMC:
i. exchange written proposals in a form which will be provided in the relevant Practice Directions, on a without prejudice basis, for the amicable resolution of the matter;
ii. file through E-lit:
- a form which will be provided in the relevant Practice Directions stating the list of issues in dispute and the list of witnesses they intend to call; and
- the ADR Form (the amended Form 6A of Appendix B of the State Courts Practice Directions) on the ADR options. The ADR Form should be read and completed by each party and his/solicitor.
Some of the ADR options available include:
1. Mediation in the State Courts Centre for Dispute Resolution (SCCDR) of the State Courts;
2. Neutral Evaluation in the SCCDR;
3. Arbitration under the Law Society's Arbitration Scheme; or
4. Mediation by private mediation service providers
At the CMC
e. At the CMC, the Court may in discussion with the solicitors in charge manage the case by:
i. encouraging the parties to co-operate in the conduct of the proceedings;
ii. assisting parties to identify and narrow issues and determine how they may be dealt with going forward, including fixing timelines for the case;
iii. dealing with any interlocutory applications and issues, including giving such directions for discovery as may be necessary;
iv. considering with parties, whether the likely benefits of any step proposed to be taken by a party justify the costs that will be incurred;
v. encouraging the parties to negotiate to resolve the issues and/or case and/or use an ADR procedure if appropriate as well as facilitating the use of such ADR procedure;
vi. helping the parties to settle the whole or part of the case;
vii. giving such directions as the Court thinks fit in order to ensure that the case progresses expeditiously (including directions for the list of witnesses to be called for trial, the appointment of a single joint expert where appropriate, the exchange and filing of Affidavits of Evidence in Chief and setting the matter down for trial); and
viii. taking such other action or making such other direction as the Court thinks appropriate in the circumstances including costs sanctions or unless orders.
f. Any Summons for Direction (SFD) filed by parties will also be dealt with at the CMC.
g. Adjournments of any CMC will not be allowed without good reasons. Consent of both parties to the adjournment, without more, is not considered sufficient reason for an adjournment.
h. If a matter is settled on the issue of liability leaving damages to be assessed, a Pre-Assessment of Damages Conference (PADC) will be convened. Conduct of PADC will be similar to CMC with necessary modifications. Where an amicable resolution on quantum is not possible, the assessment of damages hearing will proceed expeditiously.
a. Parties are expected to exchange proposals and attempt to resolve the dispute on their own wherever possible.
b. Every case dealt with at a CMC may be referred for the most appropriate mode of ADR where either:
i. the parties consent to use ADR for the resolution of their dispute; or
ii. the Court is of the view that referral to ADR would facilitate the expeditious resolution of the dispute.
a. If parties are unable to resolve their dispute and the case has to proceed for trial, the CMC judge will give directions for either a simplified trial or a full trial. We expect that with the benefit of the CMC process, most cases will be assigned simplified trials.
b. Simplified trials will be conducted with limited times allocated for examination (10 minutes), cross-examination (60 minutes) and re-examination (10 minutes) for each witness; and closing submissions (30 minutes).
c. Witnesses will be required to file affidavits of evidence in chief (AEIC) in accordance with Order 38.
Interlocutory applications for discovery and inspection of documents and interrogatories are removed. The court will manage these aspects of a case at the CMC along with other interlocutory matters.
The current summary judgment procedure, which tends to be drawn out by parties through sequential filing of affidavits, will no longer apply. Cases that so warrant a "summary" process, will be dealt with as part of the robust case management process with expedited simplified trials. This will achieve a quicker resolution for the parties.
No summonses can be filed under these Orders for MC cases filed on or after the effective date.
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