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What is a pre-trial order? What is its importance?


Section 7. Record of pre-trial. — The proceedings in the pre-trial shall be recorded. Upon the termination thereof, the court shall issue an order which shall recite in detail the matters taken up in the conference, the action taken thereon, the amendments allowed to the pleadings, and the agreements or admissions made by the parties as to any of the matters considered. Should the action proceed to trial, the order shall, explicitly define and limit the issues to be tried. The contents of the order shall control the subsequent course of the action, unless modified before trial to prevent manifest injustice. (Rule 18, Rules of Court)


What is a pre-trial order?

A pre-trial order is an order issued by the court upon the termination of the pre-trial. This order recites in detail the following:
  1. The matters taken up in the conference;
  2. The action taken thereon;
  3. The amendments allowed to the pleadings; and
  4. The agreements or admissions made by the parties as to any of the matters considered (Sec. 7, Rule 18, Rules of Court). 

What is the importance of a pre-trial order?

Should the action proceed to trial, the pre-trial order
  1. defines and limits the issues to be tried, and 
  2. controls the subsequent course of the action except if it is modified before trial to prevent manifest injustice (Sec. 7, Rule 18, Rules of Court).

●The trial will be limited only to those issues that have been raised in the pre-trial order. So that if there are only 2 issues mentioned in the pre-trial order, no party is allowed to introduce evidence on any matter other than on these 2 issues. If there is a third issue, any party cannot prove it as a matter of right because they are limited only to prove the issues raised in the pre-trial order.

● Pre-trial is primarily intended to insure that the parties properly raise all issues necessary to dispose of a case. The parties must disclose during pre-trial all issues they intend to raise during the trial, except those involving privileged or impeaching matters. Although a pre-trial order is not meant to catalogue each issue that the parties may take up during the trial, issues not included in the pre-trial order may be considered only if they are impliedly included in the issues raised or inferable from the issues raised by necessary implication. The basis of the rule is simple. Petitioners are bound by the delimitation of the issues during the pre-trial because they themselves agreed to the same. (Licomcen, Inc. vs. Abainza, G.R. No. 199781, February 18, 2013)


May the pre-trial order be modified?

The pre-trial order may be modified, if necessary to avoid injustice being committed.

The amendment of the pre-trial order is addressed to the sound discretion of the court. (Gotico vs. Leyte Chinese Chamber of Commerce, G.R. No. L-39379, April 30, 1985)


What are the exceptions to the rule that unless otherwise specified in the pre-trial order, no issue can be tried?

Issues that may not have been raised during the pre-trial may be tried during the trial under these two situations:
  1. a party tries the issue and the other does not object
  2. a party seeks to prove an issue which is not incorporated in the pre-trial order, the adverse party objects but the court finds that the presentation of that merits of the case would best be sub-served by allowing this issue to be proven, subject to the amendment of the pleading to conform with the evidence.

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