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The timing of litigation in a pandemic – when to jump?

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By Mark Skermer, Principal

As we move into what appears to be the final stages of the pandemic, it is a useful exercise to examine the effect the pandemic has had on the Courts and Tribunals within Victoria. This article will focus on civil matters rather than criminal.

As of today, the delays occasioned by the pandemic have meant that significant delays have arisen for both VCAT and the Magistrates’ Court in particular. VCAT has seen exponential delays arise in it’s civil claims as well as property lists (residential and commercial leasing in particular). This has come about as a result of a number of factors – increased volumes of cases, delays occasioned by telephone and online hearings, finite resources and pandemic requirements (for example, staff at Courts and Tribunals have also been affected by isolation requirements). These delays are not insurmountable but may take some time to clear through the system. The delays are especially being felt at a suburban and regional level.

This has attracted some media attention in the past few months in particular. Stakeholders in the property space have made their voices heard and have advocated for the need for additional resources.

The County and Supreme Courts are less affected, for a variety of reasons.

What This Means For You

If you are in a position where you are about to commence recovery action or some other type of proceeding, the question naturally coming up for our clients is – should I commence action now or wait?

Our view is that it is best to commence proceedings now where possible. This is important because it keeps a matter moving and puts you on a path towards conclusion. Moreover, commencing an action now means that you are in the queue with a Court or Tribunal and will be heard in the order of matters which have been filed. This is better than the alternative, especially given that delays are expected to last for some time in certain cases.

So this is a case where it is best to jump now as opposed to remain outside the system and face further delays later on. Please obtain advice beforehand however.

If you are currently considering whether to bring a Court or Tribunal proceeding, you are welcome to get in touch with Mark Skermer on 8540 0262.