District Court supports compulsory conferences

27 January 2009 Topics: Insurance

BRADY v WOOLWORTHS LIMITED [2009] QDC 1

It is becoming increasingly common for plaintiff law firms to suggest that a compulsory conference should be dispensed with and their client allowed to commence proceedings immediately in cases where the insurer has denied liability.

The attitude, even before conference, is often that a claim will not settle where liability is in dispute.

Our attitude has always been that even though we may hold a contrary view to our opponent it is always beneficial to hear the arguments raised by each side and endeavour to reach a compromise, where possible.  After all, that is the main purpose of the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002 (Qld) and Motor Accident Insurance Act 1994 (Qld).

This recent District Court decision supports our view.

In this case, both parties sought orders relating to the compulsory conference.

The legal representatives for each party had met some time prior to the compulsory conference.  The legal representatives for Woolworths sought to inform the claimant of the company’s position in relation to the matter.  They regarded her prospects of success as very poor.  This was conveyed to the claimant who became very upset.  The parties ultimately did not come together on the day nor was any argument advanced on behalf of either party to the other.  There was no discussion in any form directed to settling the claim.
The solicitors for Ms Brady sought an order dispensing with the compulsory conference.

Martin SC DCJ thought the obligations under the Act were clear.

His Honour commented, “ … the very purpose of a compulsory conference is to try to settle the claim at that early stage, notwithstanding strongly-held views, and that must involve discussion between the parties and an exchange of arguments to see if compromise may be achieved.  The obligation under section 38(6) pertains to all [our emphasis] claims under the Act.  The obligation is not confined to claims in respect of which settlement may be readily achieved.”

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