The much heralded Uniform Civil Court Rules 2020 commenced in South Australia on 18 May 2020. CourtSA’s new electronic registry system commenced on the same day.
The new rules apply to proceedings commenced and steps taken in all SA civil proceedings on or after 18 May. They are to be cited at the Uniform Civil Rules 2020.
All By Lawyers SA litigation guides have been updated to reflect the new rules and procedures.
The Uniform Civil Rules 2020 bring many changes.
Universal rules as to pleadings apply across all three courts and are found in Part 7 of the Rules, subject to exceptions for ‘minor civil actions’. There are specific rules for specific types of actions, for example, personal injury. There are some specific rules only applicable to the Magistrates Court.
Description of parties
One of the most significant changes is the terminology used to describe the parties. Under the Uniform Civil Rules 2020 a ‘plaintiff’ is now an ‘applicant’, a ‘defendant’ is now a ‘respondent’ and an ‘intervenor’ is now an ‘interested party’. These terms apply to all civil matters in all SA courts. By Lawyers commentary and precedents, including the titles of precedents, have been amended accordingly.
Some of the major changes relate to pre-action requirements. The rules now specify:
- how documents are to be served;
- what is to be included in a pre-action claim, including a cost estimate if the matter were to proceed to trial;
- a requirement for a pre-action response that includes a cost estimate;
- a further response from the proposed applicant if a cross claim is indicated;
- a pre-action third party notice and response if a third party is to be added;
- a requirement for a pre-action negotiation meeting and subsequent report if the matter does not resolve.
There are serious procedural and costs implications for non-compliance with pre-action requirements.
Cross claims and set offs
There are also significant changes to the procedure for cross claims and set offs and claims against, or claims for contribution by, third parties. This includes time limits and requirements for filing and service of such claims.
The rules now set out in detail the obligations of parties regarding their letter requesting the expert report. They apply an expert code of conduct and address in detail the required content of an expert report.
Parties may request instead shorter, ‘summary reports’ from experts that address only the assumptions made and opinions held in summary form. These can attach only copies of documents that record instructions given to the expert, rather than comply fully with the disclosure obligations.
Family provision claims
The procedure for family provision claims previously set out under the Supreme Court rules has been streamlined. Notably the required information regarding other potential claimants no longer needs to be contained in a separate affidavit. See the By Lawyers commentaries in the Family Provision guides for more information on the changes.
Amendments to By Lawyers guides
The following By Lawyers SA publications have now been amended – and renamed, where applicable – in line with the Uniform Civil Rules 2020:
- Magistrates Court Civil – Acting for the Applicant (formerly Magistrates Court Acting for the Plaintiff)
- Magistrates Court Civil – Acting for the Respondent (formerly Magistrates Court – Acting for the Defendant)
- Magistrates Court – Intervention Orders (located in Criminal Magistrates Court)
- Family Provision Claims – Acting for the Applicant (Formerly Family Provision Claims Acting for the Plaintiff)
- Family Provision Claims – Acting for the Respondent (Formerly Family Provision Claims Acting for the Estate)