What is the preparatory hearing all about?
From November 2019, the courts will appoint preparatory hearings. This is novelty in civil proceedings, which is to be an opportunity for a less formal meeting of the parties, their proxies and a judge after submitting pleadings, during which they will present their position and attempt to resolve the dispute amicably. If the meeting does not lead to a settlement, a hearing plan will be set out, which may include, e.g. dates of meetings and order of taking evidence. Thanks to this, the hearing is to be conducted more efficiently and faster.
- The first preparatory hearing is, as a rule, obligatory
The preparatory hearing will be obligatory in principle. The parties may not disagree with it or request for its omission. The court will set a date for the meeting after submitting the response to the lawsuit. If the defendant fails to reply to the claim, a preparatory meeting will be scheduled if no default judgment has been issued.
The court may exceptionally refrain from appointing a preparatory hearing, if the circumstances of the case indicate that it will not contribute to a more efficient hearing of the case and, for example, direct it to the trial.
- The second preparatory hearing is to speed up the settlement time
A preparatory hearing is to be scheduled no later than two months from the submission of the response to the claim or the last pleading in the case (and if they are not submitted – within two months of the deadline for submission). This is to speed up the examination of the case – currently, the plaintiff usually has a few months to wait for the first date in court.
- The absence of a party at a preparatory hearing may harm it
The preparatory meeting is based on the active cooperation of the parties, so they should attend the preparatory meeting, regardless of whether they are represented by proxies. A party may request a release from the obligation to participate in preparatory proceedings exceptionally, if the participation of its representative is sufficient.
Before the start of the preparatory hearing, the plaintiff may request that it be held without its participation. However, this does not stop its course – a hearing plan is prepared at the meeting, which will be binding on the plaintiff. By resigning from attendance at the meeting, he loses the ability to influence the course of the hearing.
Warning! An application for a preparatory hearing cannot be withdrawn. It is also not possible to submit an „eventual” application – reservations on the condition and time limit will not have any effect.
If the plaintiff does not submit a request to conduct a hearing without his participation, and then without an excuse he does not appear, the court will discontinue the proceedings, deciding on the costs as with the withdrawal of the claim (he may therefore be ordered to pay the costs). The plaintiff may once justify his absence after the hearing date – within seven days, which will set aside the decision to discontinue the proceedings.
The defendant’s failure to attend the preparatory hearing means that the hearing plan is drawn up without his participation and is binding to him. If the defendant does not excuse his absence, he may also be exposed to financial consequences. The court may, irrespective of the outcome of the case, impose on it an obligation to reimburse the costs in a higher proportion than would be required by the result of the case, or even to reimburse the costs in full.
- the matter may end at a preparatory meeting
The purpose of the preparatory hearing is to resolve the dispute between the parties so that there is no need to hold a hearing. During the hearing, the chairman will therefore encourage the parties to settle and indicate ways of resolving the dispute between them. The parties may also decide to conduct mediation.
To encourage the parties to conduct negotiations freely at this stage of the proceedings, the content of the parties’ statements in this respect is not included in the final minutes of the meeting, and the other party cannot effectively refer to them during the process.
- a hearing plan may be drawn up during the preparatory meeting
If the parties fail to reach an agreement during the preparatory meeting, it will result in a hearing plan. The obligatory part of the hearing plan are the decisions regarding the parties’ evidence applications – replacing the existing provisions on the admission of evidence. In addition, the dissertation plan can be supplemented with additional elements such as precise specification of the parties’ plea claims, determination of facts and legal disputes between the parties, dates of hearing, order and date of taking evidence, and even the date of closing the hearing or announcement of the judgment. If necessary, the hearing plan may be changed or replaced by a new one.
The deadline for the parties to cite assertions and evidence in the case, in principle, expires with the approval of the hearing plan