On 18 September 2023, updates to the Practice Note DC (Civil) No.1 will take effect. These updates affect all matters managed in the District Court’s General List.

In a nutshell, the amendments aim to assist the just, quick and cheap resolution of proceedings. The language of the amendments makes it apparent that the Court is insisting on a no-nonsense approach to case management.

There will be pressure on plaintiffs to have their cases ready and their evidence prepared prior to commencing proceedings. This means you should start to receive matters that are well advanced and there will be increased time pressure on both parties to move the matter along at a speed which some may not be accustomed to.

The matters to note include:

  1. A Time Standard has been adopted, providing that the Court aims to have cases completed within 12 months of commencement. Practitioners are expected to assist the court to meet this time standard [1.1 – 1.2].
  2. Parties are expected to be allocated a trial date within 12 months of the commencement of the proceedings [1.2]. Indeed, all cases except for those which for good reason cannot be heard within 12 months of commencement, will be required to take a hearing date within a period between 8 and 11 months from commencement [8.1].
  3. Hearing dates will be allocated even though there are matters yet to be completed [8.2]. Costs orders will be made as appropriate and on enquiry why a matter is not ready the Court can require a party to show cause as to why the claim or defence should not be struck out [8.5].
  4. Counsel’s advice should be obtained early and the court will not accept delay owing to a party’s failure to brief counsel early [1.3].
  5. Legal practitioners are expected to give clients notice of the practice note. Explicit warning is required about the court’s power to dismiss actions/defences/cross-claims if orders are not complied with, as well as their power to make cost orders against parties who fail to comply [2.1].
  6. Preparation of a plaintiff’s claim must be well advanced prior to filing their Statement of Claim. In personal injury claims, it is expected that Rule 15.12 Particulars are served with the SOC or as soon as practicable after service of the SOC [2.2-2.3]
  7. Defendants must commence preparation on receipt of the SOC, including arranging medical examinations on receipt of 15.12 particulars in personal injury claims [2.5].
  8. The Court expects the plaintiff to serve proposed consent orders with the SOC. Where appropriate, the defendant must then serve amended consent orders at least 7 days prior to the pre-trial conference [3.2].
  9. The Court expects that the defendant will have requested particulars, which the plaintiff will have supplied, before the pre-trial conference 2 months after the matter is commenced. The defendant is expected to also have served its defence and cross-claims at that point [3.3].
  10. The court examines proposed consent orders at the pre-trial conference, to ensure the case will be ready to be listed for hearing at the status conference. Orders made are to be strictly complied with. Failure to do so will be treated seriously and may lead to cost orders against non-compliant parties and where appropriate, a legal practitioner [5.6].
  11. Subpoenas should be issued as early as possible [6.1]. Non-compliance should be followed up with notices of motion [6.2].
  12. The court will not usually allow parties to rely on expert reports served later than 28 days before the status conference and they are usually treated as inadmissible [8.6].
  13. Cases with hearing estimates of 3+ days will ordered to mediation unless the parties have already made arrangements [11.2].
  14. Cases should not be mentioned by consent unless they are settled or ready to take a hearing date [4.2]. Any improper representation will result in the matter being stood down or stood over and this will be at the cost of the party that is not properly represented [4.4].

A copy of the practice note can be seen here for your careful review.

Further information / assistance regarding the issues raised in this article is available from the author, Brian Moroney, Partner, Megan Sault, Associate or your usual contact at Moray & Agnew.