Before the case is set for trial, the rules require that the plaintiff and defendant attend a settlement conference to see if there is any hope of settling the case without the need for a trial.
A settlement conference is a meeting between the parties where they attempt to reach a solution or compromise without having to go to court. Even if the parties do not agree to a settlement, the conference is useful as it allows the parties to discuss the issues involved in the case and may even shorten the length of the trial.
Either party can offer to settle one or more claims by serving on the other party an offer to settle in Form 8, and by filing a copy with the Court in a sealed envelope, marked, “OFFER TO SETTLE”.
Scheduling and meeting for settlement conferences
Before a trial date is set, a settlement conference will be held at the time and place set by the Court, unless the Court orders otherwise.
Notice of settlement conference
The Court will inform the parties of the conference by serving them with a notice of settlement conference at least 14 days before the date that it is set for.
Who will attend?
All parties to a claim must attend the settlement conference. A judge may dismiss a claim or decide against a party who does not attend a settlement conference.
What to bring
Each party must bring all the documents and reports that they wish to use at the trial. If a document or report cannot be brought to a settlement conference, that party may apply to the Court for an order postponing the conference as long as the application is filed at least 7 days before the date set for the conference.
Expenses for attending settlement conferences unprepared
Where a settlement conference cannot be conducted properly because a party is not prepared for it, the judge may order that party to pay the reasonable expenses of the other party or parties.
How to change a settlement conference date
A party may change a settlement conference date in three ways:
- with the permission of all parties, by contacting the Court to determine a suitable date;
- by filing a consent to change the date; or
- by applying to change the date of the settlement conference at least 7 days before the date that it is set and giving as much notice to the other party as the Court asks.
Where the date of the settlement conference is changed, the Court shall notify the parties of the place and time of the rescheduled conference.
Where damage to property is involved…
- a party must allow a person chosen by another party to examine the damage;
- stop and reschedule the settlement conference for want of additional evidence regarding the property;
- stop the settlement conference to pursue further settlement discussions; and
- make another order for the fair, quick and cheap resolution of the claim.
The person hearing the settlement conference might be a judge, but is not required to be one:
If a judge sits in on the settlement conference, they may
- settle the matter without going to trial;
- decide on issues that do not require evidence;
- enter a judgment or make another appropriate order, in terms agreed to by the parties;
- set a trial date where a trial is necessary;
- discuss evidence that is required and what to do if a trial is necessary;
- order a party to give any information at the settlement conference or anything as evidence at the trial
If the person hearing the settlement conference is not a judge, they may
- make a decision on issues that do not require evidence,
- set a trial date if a trial is necessary,
- discuss evidence that is required and how the trial will work where a trial is necessary,
- make recommendations to a judge to order a party to produce any information at the settlement conference or anything as evidence at the trial
Where a party does not comply with a settlement agreement
Where either party does not comply with a settlement, either party may apply to the Court for an appropriate remedy and the Court can make an order that it considers just.
If the matter cannot be resolved by settlement conference, the matter will usually go to a trial. The judge who hears a settlement conference will not hear the matter if it goes to trial unless the parties both agree to have the same judge at the trial.
Notice of trial date
Where a trial date is set at a settlement conference and a party is not there, the Court can serve a notice of the trial date.
Where a plaintiff does not attend Court
Where a plaintiff does not attend at the time set for a hearing, the judge may cancel the hearing, but the plaintiff may ask the Court to reschedule it.