Limiting expert witness use in Vic civil trials may hinder justice

22nd Jun 2012

The Australian Lawyers Alliance expressed concern today at news the Victorian Government is introducing new laws to limit and streamline the use of expert evidence in civil trials, fearing it will hinder access to justice in the courts.

“The Australian Lawyers Alliance recognises the important case management functions of modern day courts and supports the Government’s goal to improve the efficiency of the civil justice system by reducing the cost and time associated with expert evidence,” ALA Victorian president, Emily Anderson, said.

“But we are concerned that excessive limiting and streamlining of expert evidence may lead to injustice.

"It is in the fundamental interest of justice that parties are not unfairly stymied from pursuing and defending civil claims,” Ms Anderson said.

“If a party is prevented from calling and relying upon relevant expert evidence, there is a real risk of an unjust outcome,” she said.

Ms Anderson said the government contended that the changes, which included empowering courts to order parties to jointly engage a single expert, would simplify complex litigation to reduce costs, but the ALA believed that this was an over-simplification of multifaceted disputes, which could lead to unfair results.

‘Many medical negligence claims raise extremely complex questions which cannot be fully understood or adjudicated by a court without the benefit of expert opinion.

"Efficiency and case management are important objectives, but they must not be allowed to compromise the quality of justice in Victoria,” Ms Anderson said.

“The Government’s restrictions on expert evidence threaten to do just this, and for this reason the ALA believes the reforms have gone too far,” she said.

Tags: Victoria Access to justice