Summary trial is intended to provide a faster and cheaper alternative to conventional trials. The principal difference between summary trials and conventional trials is that in a summary trial evidence is introduced by affidavit, not oral evidence.
A summary trial application is brought in the same manner as a chambers application (dealt with by Rule 8). A principle consideration is whether a claim or issue is suitable for determination by summary trial. If the matter is deemed suitable, the Court will assess the merits of the application. Consent of the opposing party is not required for a matter to be determined by summary trial, but the suitability of the matter for summary trial can be contested. Regarding suitability, the Court can consider many factors including a) whether the litigation is extensive and whether the summary trial application will take considerable time; b) whether credibility is in issue; c) whether it is clear that a summary trial involves a substantial risk of wasting time and effort and producing unnecessary complexity; or d) whether the issues are determinative of the litigation or a inextricably interwoven with issues that must be determined at trial. The Court may also decline to grant judgment if it is unable, on the whole of the evidence, to find the facts necessary to decide the issues of fact or law; or if in the Court’s opinion it would be unjust to decide the issues on the application.
Summary trials are useful in personal injury matters to decide matters of liability and damages, and I personally have used summary trials with great effect to achieve early and fair personal injury judgments for my clients.