Since 1st November 2014 any claims made against an individual or a Company (a body corporate) for an amount of S$60,000.00 or less will be subjected to a Case Management Conference (CMC). These claims would be conducted through a simplified process in the Magistrate’s Court (“MC”), following the Rules of Court, Order 108, which governs the simplified process.

The CMC process is one for the Court and the parties to jointly consider all available options that are available for the parties to explore in order to settle the matter amicably and expeditiously in lieu of long and costly legal proceedings. The simplified process features upfront disclosure of documents together with early and robust case management. The main aim is to facilitate quick resolution of the dispute. Interlocutory applications are reduced thus preventing a long and contentious litigation. Alternative dispute resolutions (“ADR”) are also employed when and where necessary. For cases that require adjudication, the trial process is also simplified.

The five key features of the simplified process are as follows:

1. Upfront disclosure of documents that are relied upon by each party;

2. Early and robust case management by the Courts;

3. The use of ADR when necessary;

4. Simplified trial; and

5. Curtailed interlocutories.

The party that begins the legal action would be known as the Plaintiff and the party that defends against the legal action would be known as the Defendant. When the Plaintiff begins legal action through a writ of summons by filing a Statement of Claim the Defendant would then have eight (8) days to enter in appearance to defend this action (by filing a Memorandum of Appearance). Subsequently the Defendant would have fourteen (14) days to file a defence. Within eight (8) days after the filling of the Defence a CMC date would be made known to the parties involved. This ensures that the matter is moved along without delay.

The key purpose of CMC is to encourage parties to consider resolving their matter without trial by using negotiations and/or ADR.The main objective of the CMC is to save parties the time and cost of going through a full-length trial, which may last for years and cost tens and thousands of dollars. As such we at I.R.B Law LLPhave always advised our clients to negotiate with a view of resolving the matter through out the process.

Prior to the CMC parties will exchange proposals on the basis to settle the matter amicably and, in the event that a settlement cannot be reached, parties will nominate their preferred ADR method. This assist the parties by making it known, at the early onsent, to each other what are the issues at hand and whether the other party is interested in resolving the matter with trial being the last resort.

During the CMC the Court will manage the case by encouraging both parties to co-operate in the conduct of the proceedings by assisting parties to identify the issues at hand at an early stage. During each stage the Judge will remind parties of the benefits any steps proposed (interlocutory applications, directions for discovery as may be necessary) and the costs that will likely be incurred. It is worth nothing that the Court is not discouraging the litigant against pursing his claim but is constantly reminding him of the time and cost involved should the matter be pursued to trial.

During the CMC process the court will try to assist parties to settle the whole or part of the case (i.e Quantum, Liability and Costs amongst other matters). The Court as it thinks fit will make orders and give directions to ensure that the case progresses expeditiously by dealing with issues such as the list of witness to be called for trial, the appointment of a single joint expert where appropriate, the exchange and filing of Affidavits of Evidence in Chief and the setting the matter down for trial if the matter cannot be solved amicably.

If the case has to proceed to trial, directions will be given at the CMC for either a simplified trial or a full trial. The simplified trial is another feature of the simplified process. As of 31 March 2016, all cases coming under the simplified process have been assigned simplified trials. Simplified trials are conducted with limited time allocated for the different stages of the trial as follows:

1. Evidence in chief– 10 minutes;

2. Cross-examination (each witness) – 60 minutes;

3. Re-examination (each witness) – 10 minutes; and

4. Closing submissions (each party) – 30 minutes

The Court may extend the time limits where necessary. Generally a firm approach is taken if any party seeks an extension of time and the party requesting for additional time must provide the Court with extenuating reason(s) before an extension is granted. In certain matters providing expert evidence may be necessary, in order to save time and cost a single joint expert will be appointed. The parties involved can then cross-examine the evidence provided by the expert if necessary.

From the parties’ perspective, this simplified process saves time and costs that would have been wasted should the matter have been pursued through trial. Most would think that typically parties would feel that justice would have been better served by having the matter pursued all the way to trial and having justice done. It is worth nothing that 83-84% of the parties involved in the CMC process agree that the CMC has facilitated in the earlier resolution of the cases by narrowing down the issues that each party had and assisted in closing the gap between the issues.

At I.R.B Law LLP our team of experienced lawyers are able to advise and guide you through the process with an aim of resolving your matter expeditiously while keeping your costs low as we believe the access to justice should not be hindered by high legal fees and sudden bill shocks.