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Going for neutral evaluation in the State Courts

Neutral evaluation may be provided by the courts or other organisations besides the courts.

Note
This page describes neutral evaluation by the State Courts' Court Dispute Resolution Cluster (CDRC). The details listed below may not apply to neutral evaluation by other organisations.

For neutral evaluation by the CDRC, you must be represented by a lawyer. The evaluators are State Court judges.

Before neutral evaluation

The neutral evaluation process in the CDRC starts with a preliminary conference. This is usually within 21 days after a case has been referred for neutral evaluation.

In general, you do not need to attend the first session if you are represented by a lawyer. If necessary, you may be asked to attend future sessions.

This preliminary conference is for the lawyers to discuss with the judge:

  • Whether the evaluation will be binding.
  • Whether affidavits of evidence-in-chief will be exchanged.
  • Who the factual and expert witnesses are.
  • The dates for the neutral evaluation hearing.
Tip
A binding judgment is similar to a court judgment. You may wish to choose this as a quick way to resolve the dispute.

What to prepare

Before attending a neutral evaluation hearing, you and your lawyer should:

  • Submit a hard copy of your written opening statement to the CDRC no later than2 working days before the date of the first neutral evaluation hearing.
  • Prepare all relevant documents relating to your dispute.
    • These may include letters, email exchanges, invoices, contractual agreements, expert reports and photographs.
    • You should be prepared to present the legal and factual aspects of your case, and these documents should support your case.
  • Set aside sufficient time in your schedule to attend the hearing.
    • In general, a dispute may be resolved after 1 to 3 sessions. Each session usually takes about 3 hours. The duration and number of sessions may vary depending on the complexity of the case and the parties' attitudes.
You need to prepare all relevant documents relating to liability and costs. Refer to the full list of the documents in Appendix B of the State Court Practice Directions.

At your neutral evaluation hearing

You, the other party and your lawyers will present your case and evidence to the evaluator. Key witnesses from both sides will also testify.

The process is as follows:

The stage

What happens

Plaintiff's initial presentation

You, your lawyer and your key witnesses will present your case.

Defendant’s initial presentation

The defendant, the defendant’s lawyer and their key witnesses will present their case.

Questioning by the evaluator

The evaluator will ask questions to clarify the information given and may identify areas of agreement or disagreement. This may occur at any time during the hearing.

Testimony from expert witnesses

Expert witnesses may be called to testify.

Closing responses

Both you and the defendant make your final statements.

Evaluation

The evaluator will give an oral assessment of the merits of each party's case.

Expert witnesses may testify in a method called witness conferencing. This is where witnesses:

  • Speak at a panel discussion led by the judge instead of being cross-examined individually, one after another.
  • Can discuss and clarify areas of disagreement.

After your neutral evaluation hearing

If an agreement is reached

You and the other party will record a consent judgment or settlement agreement.

If any party fails to comply with the terms of the settlement agreement, the other may enforce it as a court order. There is no need for another hearing before a judge.

If no agreement is reached

The judge may recommend other dispute resolution options or direct both parties to take steps to proceed to a trial.

The judge who conducted your neutral evaluation will not be the judge conducting the trial. The information discussed during the neutral evaluation process will remain confidential and will not be revealed to the trial judge.

Need help?

The information here is for general guidance as the courts do not provide legal advice. If you need further help, you may want to get independent legal advice.

Find out more

Resources

Refer to the brochure on neutral evaluation in the State Courts (PDF, 305 KB).
Refer to:

Related questions

The judge will make an assessment of the merits of the case during neutral evaluation.

You should do the following:

  • Obtain the necessary evidence, such as photos and reports.
  • Prepare the appropriate indication forms.
  • Be prepared to present the legal and factual aspects of the case during the session.

On the day of the session

Ensure that both you and your client (if the client's attendance is required) set aside sufficient time for the neutral evaluation session.

If the client is representing an organisation or company, ensure that they have been given the authority to settle the case. If your client has to consult someone, ensure that they are able to contact the person via phone during the session.



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