The Civil Procedure Amendment Act 2012 (Vic) ("the Amending Act") has recently been passed and commences in two stages; all amendments except those relating to certification start on 24 December 2012, the certification amendments start on 31 March 2013. 

The Victorian legislation applies to civil proceedings in the Supreme, County and Magistrates Courts and aims to 'improve the efficiency of the civil justice system and reduce the administrative burden on litigants and legal practitioners'. We have set out below five of the key changes that the Amending Act introduces which will impact on the way civil proceedings are run in Victoria.

Expert evidence reforms – Commencing 24 December 2012

  1. Parties in the higher courts intending to adduce expert evidence must seek directions from the court before doing so. (This rule does not yet apply to the Magistrates' Court.)
  2. A Court will have the power to make any direction it considers appropriate in relation to expert evidence including:         
  • limiting expert evidence to specific issues;
  • limiting the number of experts who can give evidence on an issue;
  • directing that two or more experts prepare a joint report which sets out the key areas of agreement and disagreement between them;
  • directing that a conference of experts be held, with or without lawyers;
  • directing two or more experts to give evidence concurrently and be permitted to ask each other questions;
  • order that two or more parties jointly retain an expert; and
  • that the Court obtain its own expert to assist in the proceedings. In this case parties will be permitted to seek leave to adduce further evidence.                                    

Costs reforms – Commencing 24 December 2012                       

  1. Courts will have power to make an order for the disclosure of costs associated with litigation by a lawyer to their client. This includes their actual costs, pre-trial costs or estimated costs should the matter be unsuccessful at trial. This power will be used by courts to ensure parties are fully aware of litigation costs and encourage settlement.

Reforms to Certification requirements – Commencing 31 March 2013

  1. The person in control of civil proceedings, including an insurer, will now have the option to submit the 'overarching obligations' certificate, ("Certification") instead of the insured. This will be useful, for example, where the insured cannot be found or does not feel comfortable signing the certificate as they are a party in name only.
  2. If parties have filed Certification in the past two years (or over a period of time specified by the court rules) in civil proceedings in the same jurisdiction, then they won't have to do it again.  This will be useful, for example, where there are separate proceedings under statute (eg s.138 of the Accident Compensation Act) and under the common law.