Early neutral evaluation
A process for parties to try and resolve a dispute by presenting their arguments to a magistrate. A magistrate will make an evaluation and indicate a possible court outcome.
Early Neutral Evaluation is only provided at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.
After a notice of defence is filed, the court may decide if the dispute is referred to an Early Neutral Evaluation. If referred, the parties will be informed of a date to attend court. This is expected to be within eight weeks after the filing of the notice of defence.
Any dispute may be referred to Early Neutral Evaluation but mainly disputes where the:
- amount of the claim is $50,000 or more, or
- issues raise complex legal arguments or factual disputes.
The magistrate will consider the parties’ submissions and view their documents in order to provide an evaluation. The evaluation is a non-binding opinion on the likely outcome at a hearing.
All parties, and their lawyers, are required to attend the Early Neutral Evaluation. An employee of a corporation/organisation who is a party to a matter must be authorised in writing to attend. Each party must have a person attend with the authority to decide whether to settle the dispute. Where an insurer is indemnifying a party, the insurer must attend.
Parties must notify the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, within seven days after the completion of an evaluation, whether the dispute has been resolved. If the dispute is settled, the court may make a final order.
If the dispute is not resolved, the matter will be listed for a court hearing. The magistrate who conducted the Early Neutral Evaluation will not conduct the hearing.
See the party in a civil matter page for information about going to court.