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Judges Take Control of Excessive Commercial Litigation Costs


Wednesday, November 22, 2023

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A Victorian Supreme Court Judge  has ordered the executives from companies involved in massive litigation attend court so that they can be told how to pull their lawyers into line.  Judge Byrne made the orders telling executives of BHP Billiton Petroleum (VIC) and construction firms McConnell Dowell and AJ Lucas Drilling.

Judge Byrne said the following in relation to the excess costs and length of the land trial:  “Traditionally the judge remains silent, a relatively passive spectator who listens to the evidence”.  Judge Byrne said “Traditionally, too, litigation is considered an adversarial exercise.  It’s like World War 1 – everyone gets into the trenches and slugs it out”.

After explaining the practical problems of hearing an eight-month trial – such as reviewing 7000 pages of transcript and assessing the credibility of witnesses against others who have been called half a year earlier – the judge asked the companies to insert some business acumen into how their lawyers were preparing the case.

“What I would encourage here – and particularly the businessmen who are in the back row – is to consider this litigation as if they would a substantial commercial enterprise” he said.

“I would like to approach this trial in a way which I would like to think that commercial people would approach it.  That is to say, let’s see how best we can achieve the result we set out to achieve and at minimum cost.”

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