Phase 2 – Settlement Conference and Negotiations.
If a Defence is filed, the next step is a mandatory step for what is called a Settlement Conference and this is usually scheduled for a date 2 to 3 months after the filing of the Defence. At least 14 day prior to the Settlement Conference, both parties have to make sure that all documents have been served and that they have served and filed a List of Proposed Witnesses. This allows for better discussions at the Settlement Conference.
If, after we have reviewed the Defence and their documentation, you wish for Miller Paralegal Services to attempt to resolve the matter even before the Settlement Conference, we can have those discussions with the opposing counsel or party (if self-represented). Otherwise we can simply wait for the Settlement Conference and hear what the Deputy Judge might say about the cases.
The Settlement Conference is a mandatory step intended to:
- attempt to resolve the dispute and to encourage settlement (to save all parties unnecessary costs of Trial) – each side will be asked what their position is on resolving and asked to reasonably consider alternatives
- resolve or narrow down the issues in the action (what can be agreed upon won’t have to be argued at Trial)
- ensure all documents and witness lists have been exchanged (less interruptions in Trial process)
At the Settlement Conference, the Deputy Judge will first hear from the Plaintiff’s side a summary of the case and the “who, what, when, where, why”. The Deputy Judge will than hear a summary of the Defendant’s side. Some Deputy Judges review the court files in advance of the Conference and have a pretty good idea of each party’s position. The Deputy Judge can then provide his/her opinion as to the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case and may suggest possible settlement areas. These are only suggestions based on very quick summaries of facts from each side and without the benefit of hearing from sworn witnesses testifying in person (during which the Deputy Judge is assessing credibility). If settlement is reached, the Deputy Judge can make an Order that is agreed to by all parties. If however settlement is not reached, the Deputy Judge will ask for opinions as to how many witnesses would be needed at Trial and therefore how long a Trial would likely take. Because this is meant to be open and frank discussion, this Deputy Judge is unable to later hear the Trial in this matter.