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Tilting the Scales Business Issues with a Legal Slant

Justice! – The Case for Expedited Trials

Posted in Legal Risk Management, Money

Royal Pane, owner of A Pane in the Glass, fabricates high performance windows for commercial buildings. The good news? Business is going through the roof. The bad news? Royal’s delinquent receivables are climbing daily. A Pane in the Glass’s lenders demand that collections improve – now. Even if he could overcome his dislike for the courthouse and for lawyers, Royal cannot wait the three years his lawyer tells him it will take to get to justice. For Royal, time is money. What can he do?

File an Expedited Trial request. If the account receivable, court costs and attorney’s fees altogether do not exceed $100,000 for any one Pane in the Glass customer, the new Texas procedural rules promise a trial in less than a year. Effective March 2013, every Texas lawsuit seeking monetary relief must state a range of relief demanded. If the range is right, an expedited trial within a year is a possibility. The court’s rocket docket is aided by reducing the amount of written discovery, limiting the time for depositions, shortening the trial time and permitting an expedited trial setting within 90 days after the end of discovery. While there are still opportunities for delay, the total time to trial should be much shorter than three years.

The Downside? Because the new rule does not require mediation, some believe that will increase the number of trials and further burden the courts’ docket. Only the plaintiff can determine whether the case will be a compulsory expedited trial. The calculated $100,000 limit does not include counterclaims. Some lawyers believe a case cannot properly be prepared within a year or tried with only twelve hours of testimony per side. Nevertheless, collection claims like that of A Pane in the Glass, are rarely complicated, and these requirements should not be insurmountable.

The Upside? Promoting greater accessibility, efficiency, and accountability in the civil justice system has been studied for years. Texas Supreme Court Judge Nathan Hecht says about expedited actions: “I hope it will be an enormous boost for the civil trial system. . . . It’s just a way — as lawyers talk about all the time — what they used to do in the old days, you work up a file, you go to the courthouse, you pick a jury, you put your evidence on a couple of days, you get your decision, and go on.” California considered and implemented a very similar statute a couple of years ago, as did South Carolina.

Tilting the Scales in Your Favor

Try it. For matters that are relatively simple, like collection of Royal Pane’s accounts receivable, the expedited trial rules are very appealing and promise to be more timely and cost effective.

For owners of companies like A Pane in the Glass, time does mean money – both in collecting their delinquent receivables and in limiting the time (and expense) for their lawyers to work through their claim. Getting to the courthouse faster with an expedited trial offers the very realistic prospect of both.