The New Jersey Supreme Court has approved implementation of the Complex Business Litigation Program (the Program) for the handling of complex business, commercial and construction cases.
The Program commencement date was January 1, 2015 for such complex cases filed on or after that date that fulfill the program eligibility requirements of Complex Business Ligation Judges. The Judges will be specifically trained in areas of business litigation.
The Program requirements include:
- Threshold Damages Amount – The amount in controversy must be at least $200,000 for inclusion in the Program unless the Court determines in a particular situation that a case with a lesser amount in controversy is appropriate for inclusion in the Program.
- Self-Designation as Complex Business Litigation – The attorneys or parties will designate a matter as complex business litigation by indicating on the Civil Case Information Statement that the matter is either case type 508 (complex commercial) or case type 513 (complex construction). Those case types are defined as follows:
- Complex commercial (508): Defined as claims by, against, and among parties that arise out of business or commercial transactions and involve parties’ exposure to potentially significant damage awards; or where the business or commercial claim involves complex factual or legal issues; a large number of separately represented parties; potential numerous pre-trial motions raising difficult or novel legal issues; case management of a large number of lay and expert witnesses or a substantial amount of documentary evidence (including electronically stored information); substantial time required to complete the trial; significant interpretation of a business or commercial statute; or involves other contentions of a complex business – commercial nature.
- Complex Construction (513): Defined as claims by, against, and among owners, contractors, subcontractors, fabricators and installers, architects, engineers, design and construction consultants, and other similar parties associated with a construction project that involves parties’ exposure to potentially significant damage awards because of claimed design and construction defects, or facility delivery delay claim or where the construction claim involves complex factual or legal issues; a large number of separately represented parties; potential numerous pre-trial motions raising difficult or novel legal issues; case management of a large number of lay and expert witnesses or a substantial amount of documentary evidence (including electronically stored information); substantial time required to complete the trial. Complex construction does not include construction and professional payment and billing claims, change order claims, wrongful termination, quantum merit, construction lien or mechanics lien claims, unless associated with a complex construction claim as herein described.
- Jury and Non-Jury Matters – The Program will include both jury and non-jury matters.
- Opt-In/Opt-out provision – Parties may file a motion with the Complex Business Litigation Program judge for inclusion in the Program where the amount in controversy is less than $200,000. Parties may also move for removal from the Program on the grounds that the action does not meet the eligibility criteria.
- Review of Cases in Program – The Assignment Judge or his/her designee may initially conduct a review of the case to determine if it is appropriate for the Program. The Program judge may also review actions presumptively assigned to inclusion in the Program to determine if the case is appropriate for inclusion. If after review, if a judge determines that the complex nature of the action or the threshold damages claim amount is not established, the case may be removed from the Program.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution – Cases in the Program are not part of the court’s mandatory civil mediation and arbitration programs. However, the Complex Business Litigation Program Judge in each vicinage, as part of case management, should encourage the parties to engage in mediation.
- Opinions – Under the Program, each Complex Business Litigation Judge will be encourage to issue a minimum of two written opinions per year in order to develop a body of case law on issues relating to business litigation. The intention of this aspect of the program is that there would be cases that provide guidance to businesses facing similar issues in the future.
The program was designed by the New Jersey Judiciary to hopefully expedite the litigation process for those parties involved in complex business cases.