Enforcement of Arbitration Rules regarding witness statements
Stakeholders are advised that as of 28 April 2014 the Registrar will be rejecting Applications and Replies in relation to the filing of witness statements where he considers they do not comply with the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 (“the Act”) and the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Arbitration Rules 2011 (“the Rules”).
A recent review of registry practices regarding the lodgement of documentation in the Workers’ Compensation Arbitration Service showed consistent non-compliance with the letter and spirit of the Act and the Rules when it came to the filing of witness statements.
Section 183(1) of the Act requires a party to comply with the Rules regarding information that must be provided to the Registrar and other parties, and the time and manner in which the documents, material and information must be provided.
The specific Rules the Registrar will be enforcing include:
- Rules 25 and 29 require a party to file copies of all documents, material and information the party proposes to adduce in evidence with the Application or Reply respectively. Both Rules expressly provide “documents, material and information” include witness statements in Rule 57(1) and statements in Rule 57(2); and
- Rule 13 states the Registrar has discretion to reject a document that is not properly completed or lodged, not accompanied by materials required under the Rules or an order of a dispute resolution authority, or does not otherwise comply with the Rules or an order.
The strict enforcement of the rules in this regard is expected to provide the following benefits:
- better preparation of the filing party’s case by their representatives;
- better understanding by both the filing party and his or her opponent of the case they have to present or meet and the risks to which each are exposed if the matter proceeds;
- earlier settlement of disputes on the road towards a full arbitration hearing;
- more clearly defined issues with an associated reduction in the costs and time of preparation;
- less scope for surprise and resulting adjournments with consequent savings in time and costs; and
- reduced time in arbitration hearings, with witness statements being adopted and tendered as that witness’s evidence-in-chief, or tendered by consent without the need to call that witness for cross-examination.