The new Civil Procedure Rules, which have entered into force on the 1st of September 2023, have brought about monumental changes in the way in which cases will be heard before the Cypriot Courts.
A very important change comes with Part 34 of the new Regulations, which concerns the evidence given to the Court by Experts. Part 34 has completely revised what was in force up until now in relation to Expert evidence. The ultimate purpose of this new Part 34 is to limit the testimony of Experts so as to resolve the dispute faster and with a reduced costs burden. If the Expert ignores his obligations towards the Court, there is a real risk that the Court will decide that this testimony cannot be taken into account.
The general principle that Experts must be objective and impartial, of course, still applies.
One of the two very important changes brought about by Part 34 is that, whereas until recently (before the entry into force of the New Civil Procedure Rules) each party in Court proceedings, selected the Expert whose testimony it wished to adduce to the Court, without first being obliged to submit a request, this unfettered right will no longer exist.
The summoning of an Expert by the parties can now only be achieved by applying to the Court. A disputing party, which wishes to file a relevant Expert Report with the Court, may not do so without prior permission, and when such permission is requested, the issues to be dealt with by that Expert must, inter alia, be specified.
However, what must be borne in mind by both the parties to the dispute and the Court, is that the right of the Court to limit the testimony of the Expert cannot be exercised arbitrarily and must always be exercised in the light of the overriding objective of a achieving a fair trial. In addition, the facts of each case should be taken into account, as well as suggestions/positions of the parties and there should be no general instructions from the Court on these issues.
The second very important change brought about by Part 34, is that the Court is now given the power to order that the testimony be provided by a joint Expert if the disputing parties think it appropriate for an Expert witness to give evidence on a particular matter. However, in the event of disagreement between the parties as to the person of the joint Expert, the Court itself is invited to select such an Expert from a list drawn up by the parties (unless otherwise instructed). It should also be noted that, in accordance with the relevant (English) case-law on the subject, it has been held that, where a party agrees to the appointment of a joint Expert, this does not constitute an obstacle to requesting additional appointment of an Expert if there is good reason to contest the joint Expert’s Report.
Furthermore Part 34 places a raft of stringent requirements on the content of Expert Reports and requires Experts to state explicitly whether there are conflicting opinions on a particular matter and whether the Expert can opine on a particular matter with or without reservation. Furthermore, the Court now is afforded the power to investigate the precise instructions that were given the Expert by the party adducing the Expert evidence and the Expert must include in his Expert report a summary of his opinion so as to make it easier for the Court to understand his opinion and decide upon it. Finally, Expert Reports must now contain a Statement of Truth signed by the Expert. Understandably, these heightened requirements aim at ensuring that the Expert evidence adduced before the Court will be of the highest quality.
In conclusion, it is plainly evident that under Part 34 parties will now have to put particular care into choosing Experts, giving instructions to Experts and in readying the Expert Report so that it can be successfully adduced as evidence before the Court.