A compulsory meeting between people or companies to work out a dispute. A pre-hearing conference is confidential and is generally conducted by a court registrar.
Most defended civil matters less than $40,000, except at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, are referred to the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) for mediation. If a claim is $40,000 or more or is not a claim for money, a registrar may conduct a pre-hearing conference.
When a notice of defence is filed, the dispute may be referred to a pre-hearing conference. Parties are notified in writing if a pre-hearing conference has been ordered and the date and place where it will be held.
A pre-hearing conference is a process where a registrar:
- assists the parties in attempting to resolve a dispute
- gives each party, or their lawyer, an opportunity to be heard and to give a summary of the dispute
- assists the parties to identify key issues in dispute and the questions of fact and law to be decided
- talks privately with the parties about the court process
- considers the steps to be taken to prepare for the final hearing or arbitration.
If a dispute is resolved at pre-hearing conference, the registrar may make orders to give effect to the settlement.
If the dispute is not resolved, the registrar may make orders requiring the parties to file and serve documents or to take certain steps before a hearing or arbitration.
Each party must have a person attend the pre-hearing conference with the authority to decide whether to resolve a dispute. Where an insurer is indemnifying a party, the insurer must attend.
Where a party has a lawyer, their lawyer must attend. Where a corporation/organisation is a party, the corporation/organisation must attend by an Australian lawyer, together with an employee of the corporation/organisation who is authorised to attend in writing.
If a party fails to attend, the claim may be dismissed or the notice of defence struck out.
If a pre-hearing conference does not resolve the dispute, it will be listed for a court hearing or arbitration on a later date. Statements made in a pre-hearing conference cannot be disclosed, except by the parties’ agreement.
See the party in a civil matter page for information about going to court.