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A civil approach to dispute resolution

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The Civil Procedure Bill 2010 (Bill) is expected to become law this month, with its objective to promote a more efficient, cost-effective, expeditious approach to dispute resolution in Victoria.

Attorney-General Rob Hulls has described the Bill as the most significant civil procedure reform in more than 20 years, stating that it is aimed at:

  • Curtailing game-playing and delay tactics
  • Correcting power imbalances between litigants
  • Placing obligations on parties to ensure costs are reasonable
  • Minimising delay

With a view to achieving these objectives, the Bill will strongly encourage disputing parties to resolves their differences through pre-litigation negotiation and/or alternate means of dispute resolution (ADR).

Notably, the Bill will also prohibit parties from unreasonably refusing to participate in pre-litigation ADR, by imposing cost consequences on such parties should their matter advance to trial.

The Bill also imposes a number of overarching obligations on disputing parties, their lawyers and their insurers, such as:

  • The obligation to act honestly
  • The obligation to use reasonable endeavors to resolve disputes
  • The obligation to minimise delay
  • The obligation to use reasonable endeavors to ensure that litigation costs incurred are reasonable and proportionate to the complexity of the matter in dispute.

According to Mr Hulls, the Bill’s proposed reform “will bring parties together to genuinely talk about their dispute. It will require parties to turn their minds immediately to the real issues, and will save costs by avoiding expensive litigation.”

MST welcomes any reforms which simplify the ability of parties to resolve their disputes quickly and efficiently, with potential cost savings. Notwithstanding this, it remains to be seen whether the proposed reforms will in fact lead to cost savings for disputing parties, or whether they will add to the cost of litigation by requiring said parties to enter into potentially costly negotiations prior to issuing proceedings.

Our Dispute Resolution & Litigation lawyers are experienced in all areas of dispute resolution and are happy to discuss options for resolving your disputes with you.

Author: Jack Casonato

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