This summer, Indiana created a new court system designed for business disputes. The Indiana Commercial Courts are now “open for business.” Indiana is the 23rd state to create special business courts over the last 20 years or so. Our neighbors Illinois, Ohio and Michigan already have similar courts.
The idea is to have business disputes handled by a small number of judges who are both (a) focused on business issues, rather than juggling a variety of family law or criminal law matters, and (b) using special rules and procedures designed to speed up the resolution of each case.
Commercial Court judges are encouraged to be very active and involved in managing deadlines, keeping close tabs on the progress of discovery (the exchange of facts) and making themselves available on short notice for hearings to keep things moving along. Judges are also encouraged to engage outside experts to serve, if the parties agree, as “Masters” for a particular case. Commercial Court Masters can handle day-to-day issues that may arise regarding discovery, accounting, computer discovery, or other technical issues.
What kinds of disputes qualify for Commercial Court? Only cases that were filed after June 1, 2016, involve businesses or business owners on both sides, and involve a contract dispute, non-compete agreement, trade secrets, sales transaction, franchise agreement, ownership/control of a business, or similar business disputes.
The primary goal is to speed things up. Studies confirm what every business manager knows: the longer a case drags on, the more is spent in legal fees. Given that most business disputes are ultimately settled at mediation or through negotiation, the idea is to get there faster. If you speed up discovery, decision-makers on both sides can more quickly understand all of the facts and then evaluate and resolve the case.
One feature that may help the speed and quality of decisions is a special budget earmarked to hire four new law clerks to assist the six Commercial Court judges. Adding this research support should help the judges rule more quickly and accurately on motions.
At least for now, this whole process is voluntary. Both parties have to agree to have a case handled by Commercial Court. Otherwise it will just proceed through the standard state-court assignment and case-handling.
Which leads to the question: Should you agree to move your new business case to Commercial Court? Our law firm is encouraging our business clients to do so, or at least give it serious thought. Most of our litigation attorneys are licensed in both Indiana and Michigan, and we have had some favorable experiences with Michigan’s similar Business Court process. In our experience, cases do move more quickly in Business Court.
Not every Indiana business case is suited for Commercial Court. But you should talk with your lawyer about it. The decision could lead to a better result in your case, and you might save both time and money.
For more information about Indiana’s Commercial Courts, visit the Indiana Judicial Center’s site: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/center/2944.htm
Disclaimer: The THK Legal Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. In no case does the published material constitute an exhaustive legal study, and applicability to a particular situation depends upon investigation of specific facts. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.