Conference of Experts
When the Court makes case management orders to prepare for trial, the Court may require experts (who are to give or have given reports) to meet for the purpose of identifying and addressing the issues in dispute between the experts (conference).
Where appropriate, the Court may appoint a registrar of the Court or some other suitably qualified person (Conference Facilitator) to act as a facilitator at the conference. Such an order may be made on the application of a party under Rule 23.15 of the Rules or on the Court's own initiative under Rule 5.04 of the Rules.
The purpose of the conference is for the experts to have a comprehensive discussion of issues relating to their field of expertise, with a view to identifying key issues and areas of agreement and disagreement.
The conference is attended only by the experts and any Conference Facilitator. Unless the Court orders otherwise, the parties' lawyers will not attend the conference but will be provided with a copy of any conference report.
Parties, their lawyers and the experts should be familiar with aspects of the Code which relate to conferences of experts and joint-reports (see clauses 6 and 7 of Annexure A of the Expert Evidence Practice Note (GPN-EXPT)).
Timing and location of a conference?
In each case the decision to require the experts to confer will be made by the judge based on the circumstances of the case and the views of the parties.
The timing and location of the conference of experts will be decided by the judge or a registrar who will take into account the location and availability of the experts and the Court's case management timetable.
The conference may take place at the Court and will usually be conducted in-person. However, if not considered a hindrance to the process, the conference may also be conducted with the assistance of visual or audio technology (such as via the internet, video link and/or by telephone).
Preparation for a conference of experts
Experts can prepare for a conference of experts by ensuring that they are:
- familiar with all of the material upon which they base their opinions and
- where expert reports (in draft or final form) have been exchanged, familiar with the opinions of the other experts.
Prior to the conference, experts should also consider:
- where they believe the differences of opinion lie between the experts and
- what process and discussions may assist to identify and refine those areas of difference.
What happens at the conference?
At the conference, it is expected that the experts will narrow the issues in respect of which issues they agree, partly agree or disagree. These will then be clearly and concisely outlined in a joint-report.
Depending on the nature of the expert evidence and the proceeding generally, the Court may order experts to give some or all of their evidence concurrently at the final (or other) hearing.
Parties and the experts should be familiar with the Concurrent Expert Evidence Guidelines in Annexure B to the Expert Evidence Practice Note (GPN-EXPT). This guide is not intended to be exhaustive but indicates:
- when the Court might consider it appropriate for concurrent expert evidence to take place
- how that process may be undertaken
- what the Court expects of the experts.