District Court Rules 2014 – Quick guide to key changes of procedure

Mathew King                 The new District Courts Rules 2014 (Rules) received concurrence from the Rules Committee on 13 March 2014. Cabinet has now approved them and the Rules were made by an Order in Council on 26 May 2014. The Rules have been Gazetted and came into force on 1 July 2014.

This article is designed as a guide to highlight the key changes in the claims procedure under the new Rules of which practitioners should be aware. It is not intended to be exhaustive, nor to list every exception to each rule. Nor is it intended for practitioners to rely solely on this guide – rather they will need to refer to the Rules themselves for full details.

Key changes – the highlights

Some of the highlights of the new Rules can be summarised as follows:

  • Notices of proceeding, statements of claim and defence, counterclaim and replies are back. Notice of claim/response forms are gone.
  • A plaintiff can apply for summary judgment straight away. A defendant is able to apply for summary judgment at the same time as serving the statement of defence.
  • Information capsules are gone but an initial list of documents must be provided when serving the pleading (similar to initial disclosure in the High Court).
  • The notice of pursuit of claim is gone.
  • Case management is different to the High Court (see below). The key difference is that discovery orders are not intended to be made until the second case management conference.
  • Short, simplified and full trials remain. There are now set criteria for allocating a simplified trial.
  • Mandatory judicial settlement conferences (JSCs) remain (subject to some exceptions) for cases not initially allocated to a short trial.
  • Discovery requirements are now more consistent with the High Court Rules. The explicit presumption against standard discovery for short trials and simplified trials in the 2009 Rules is not replicated in the 2014 Rules. Exactly how the Court will deal with discovery orders for short trials (at least post-JSC) and simplified trials remains to be seen.

Pleadings

Proceedings are commenced by statement of claim (SoC) (r 5.28). A notice of proceeding (NoP) must also be filed and served with the statement of claim (r 5.25).

A statement of defence (SoD) is to be filed and served no later than 25 working days after service of the NoP and SoC.

A counterclaim must be filed and served within the timeframe stated in the NoP for filing a SoD, or if no such timeframe is stated, within a time fixed by the Court.

If a defendant pleads an affirmative defence, the plaintiff must file and serve a reply within ten working days of service of the SoD. Any allegation pleaded in an affirmative defence that is not denied is treated as being admitted.

Initial list of documents

At the same time as serving a pleading, the party must provide a list of documents relied on in the pleading to all other parties. The party must provide those documents within five working days of a request by the defendant (r 8.4). There are some limited exceptions to compliance with this requirement in r 8.4(3) and (4).

Summary judgment

The plaintiff can apply for summary judgment at or after the time when the SoC is served on the defendant up to ten working days after the SoD is filed, or later with the leave of the court (r 12.4(2)).

A defendant may apply for summary judgment at the time the SoD is served on the plaintiff, or later with the leave of the court (r 12.4(4)).

Case management

A first case management conference is to take place in the period between 25 working days and 50 working days after the SoD has been filed (r 7.1). The parties should endeavour to agree a joint memorandum to be filed at least ten working days before the hearing. If they cannot agree, the plaintiff must file its memorandum ten working days beforehand and the other parties must file at least five working days beforehand.

The memoranda and the conference itself deal with a number of matters, the key ones being:

  • whether initial discovery has been provided;
  • whether further discovery is required before a JSC or short trial;
  • the hearing and disposal of any outstanding interlocutory applications;
  • whether the mode of trial is to be a short trial;
  • if a short trial is not allocated, the court must direct the parties to attend a JSC as soon as practicable after the interlocutory matters and the matters in Part A of schedule 3 have been dealt with, unless the judge directs otherwise or the parties agree to participate in alternative dispute resolution.

If the matter proceeds by short trial, the parties are not required to attend a JSC.

If the matter is not initially allocated to a short trial, following the JSC a second case management conference is to be held (subject to limited exceptions), which addresses the following key matters (r 7.4):

  • any unresolved issues from the first case management conference;
  • mode of trial, being a short trial, simplified trial or full trial;
  • whether the pleadings require amendment so as to identify the issues;
  • whether additional parties should be joined;
  • discovery (r 8.5 and 8.11) and other interlocutory applications;
  • readiness for trial;
  • fixture or hearing matters, e.g. close of pleadings date, trial duration etc, timetable for briefs of evidence etc.

The timeframe for filing joint or separate memoranda is the same as for the first case management conference.

Discovery

Discovery orders under Part 8 ordinarily are not intended to be made until the second case management conference. At that time, the judge must make a discovery order for a proceeding unless he or she considers that the proceeding can be justly disposed of without any discovery. Discovery is consistent with the High Court Rules, being standard or tailored discovery.

It appears from the explanatory note to the 2014 Rules that the Part 8 discovery provisions are intended to apply only to simplified trials and full trials. However, this is not explicitly stated in the 2014 Rules. It seems from rules 7.4 and para (2) of Part B of schedule 3 that it is at least open to the court at the second case management conference to allocate a short trial following a JSC and to make Part 8 discovery orders. The position on discovery with regard to short trials and simplified trials appears to be more flexible. Rule 10.8 specifically states that Parts 8 and 9 apply in full to full trials.

Modes of trial

The criteria for each mode of trial are set out in r 10.1.

The short trial is intended for claims where the court considers that one or more of the following apply:

  • the case can come to a hearing quickly;
  • the issues are relatively uncomplicated or a modest amount is at stake;
  • the trial time is not likely to exceed a day.
  • The simplified trial is intended for claims where the court considers that one or more of the following apply:
  • the duration of the hearing is not likely to exceed 3 days;
  • there is some complexity raised by the issues;
  • the amount of money involved is more than modest;
  • one or more expert witnesses will be giving evidence (r 10.7). Full trials are for cases where neither the “short trial” nor “simplified trial” situations apply. The procedures for each mode of trial can be found in the following provisions of the 2014 Rules:
  • Short trial (rr 10.3 and 10.4);
  • Simplified trial (rr 10.5 to 10.7);
  • Full trial (r 10.8).

Transitional provisions

The transitional and savings provisions are contained in schedule 1. Essentially, subject to some exceptions, cases not allocated to a short trial, simplified trial or full trial will become subject to the 2014 Rules at or following the next key event (e.g. decision on trial allocation, JSC, determination of existing summary judgment application etc). Cases that have already been allocated to a short trial, simplified trial or full trial will remain subject to the 2009 Rules. Cases transferred from the High Court will remain subject to the 2009 Rules.

Note to readers

A national road show on the Rules is to be held in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin in August 2014. This road show will explain the new Rules, their operation, and how they differ from the High Court Rules. Further details about the road show will be publicised on the Rules Committee’s website and in a forthcoming issue of Law News.

Leave a comment

Contact Us
Phone 09 303 5270
Fax 09 309 3726
Email reception@adls.org.nz