State Courts Practice Directions 2021

Part V: “DOCUMENTS-ONLY” PROCEEDINGS

52. “Documents-only” Civil Trials and Assessments of Damages

(1) This Practice Direction applies when all parties consent and elect to apply for a “Documents-Only” trial in civil proceedings (“Civil Trial”) or Assessment of Damages (“Assessment”).

(2) “Documents-Only” Civil Trials and Assessments are hearings in which the final determination of the case will be conducted entirely on the basis of —

(a) evidence tendered by way of affidavits of evidence-in-chief (“AEICs”); and/or

(b) documents and/or written submissions.

(3) Where the option of “Documents-Only” Civil Trials and Assessments is requested by parties and approved by the Courts pursuant to the procedures below, except as otherwise specifically provided for in this Practice Direction, all pre-trial processes/applications and appeal processes/applications provided for under the Rules of Court 2021 and these Practice Directions for Originating Claims will continue to apply to the relevant proceedings.

(4) The types of cases that are designated as suitable for “Documents-Only” Civil Trials or Assessments and the additional steps and procedures that will apply for such cases are set out below.

Designated cases

(5) The following Magistrate’s Court and District Court cases are designated as suitable for “Documents-Only” Civil Trials or Assessments:

(a) cases where the issues in dispute centre on the interpretation of documents;

(b) cases where the cross-examination of witnesses is not necessary either because there are no disputes of fact, and/or the parties agree to admit affidavits of evidence-in-chief without the attendance of the witnesses (eg, due to the simplicity of issues in dispute, the small value of the claim, or any other valid reason);

(c) cases where the Court may determine the dispute based on the existing contemporaneous documents without the testimony of witnesses;

(d) cases where witnesses cannot be made available for cross-examination in any event (for instance, a witness can no longer be located or has died); and/or

(e) cases where the issues between parties can be determined entirely by legal submissions/arguments.

Consideration of the suitability of a “Documents-Only” Civil Trial or Assessment of Damages

(6) Parties should consider the suitability of their case for a “Documents-Only” Civil Trial or Assessment and counsel should obtain their respective clients’ instructions prior to attending the following sessions:

(a) in the case of all civil matters where all issues concerning liability have not been agreed or determined, the first Case Conference (“CC”) convened under Order 9, Rule 1 of the Rules of Court 2021; or

(b) in the case of civil matters where interlocutory judgment has been entered for damages to be assessed, the first Assessment of Damages Court Dispute Resolution Conference (“ADCDR”) convened pursuant to Practice Direction 45 after the filing of the Notice of Appointment for Assessment of Damages.

(7) The judicial officer conducting the CC (including ADCDR, as the case may be) will discuss with parties the suitability of the case for a “Documents-Only” Civil Trial or Assessment.

(8) Where parties agree to a “Documents-Only” Civil Trial or Assessment, they must personally execute and file the Request Form set out in Form 16 in Appendix A1 to these Practice Directions. Any Request Form that is executed by solicitors on behalf of their clients will not be accepted.

(9) In every case, a “Documents-Only” Civil Trial or Assessment will only be ordered if —

(a) all parties consent to the adoption of this mode of conduct of the Civil Trial or Assessment;

(b) all parties personally execute and file the Request Forms recording their consent; and

(c) the judicial officer deems the case to be suitable for a “Documents-Only” Civil Trial or Assessment.

(10) Where requested by the parties, a hearing date will be fixed for them to make oral submissions in support of their respective cases before a decision is delivered. This request for a hearing date can be made in the Request Form. In the case of Civil Trials, such submissions will be made in open Court before the trial judge and in the case of Assessments, such submissions will be made in Chambers before the judicial officer hearing the Assessment.

Directions for a “Documents-Only” Civil Trial or Assessment

(11) Where a “Documents-Only” Civil Trial or Assessment is ordered, except as specifically provided herein, there are no changes to the pre-trial or pre-assessment applications and/or processes which may be undertaken by parties as provided for under the Rules of Court or Practice Directions until —

(a) in the case of a “Documents-Only” Civil Trial, the CC convened after the matter has been set down pursuant to Order 9, Rule 25 of the Rules of Court 2021; and/or

(b) in the case of a “Documents-Only” Assessment, the ADCDR convened after parties have filed the Notice of Appointment for the Assessment for Damages.

(12) In the case of a “Documents-Only” Civil Trial, at the CC referred to in sub-paragraph 11(a) above, in addition to any usual directions for the filing of bundles, directions will be given for parties to file their respective written submissions and Bundles of Authorities. Where requested by the parties, a half-day hearing slot will also be given for them to make any oral submissions they wish to before the trial judge in open Court.

(13) In the case of a “Documents-Only” Assessment, at the ADCDR referred to in sub-paragraph 11(b) above, in addition to any usual directions for the filing of bundles, directions will be given for parties to file their respective written submissions and Bundles of Authorities. Where requested by the parties, a half-day hearing slot will also be given for parties to make any oral submissions they wish to before the judicial officer hearing the Assessment in Chambers.

(14) In certain cases, where necessary, the trial judge or the judicial officer hearing the Assessment may issue further directions for the fair and effective conduct of the Civil Trial or Assessment, including directions for the following matters:

(a) that a further CC be convened for counsel to address the Court on certain issues;

(b) that further submissions and/or authorities be submitted by counsel/parties in writing or in person;

(c) that the Civil Trial or Assessment not be conducted on a documents-only basis as it appears on a review of the documents submitted that certain factual or expert witnesses will need to be called; and/or

(d) any other matter that the trial judge or the judicial officer hearing the Assessment thinks necessary to be dealt with.

(15) After a decision is delivered in a Civil Trial or Assessment conducted on a “Documents-Only” basis, all appeal processes applicable to the relevant matter will apply as provided for under the Rules of Court 2021 and these Practice Directions.

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