Announcement from the Iowa Supreme Court:
Today, the Iowa Supreme Court approved new court rules intended to reduce the cost and time needed to resolve many civil lawsuits.
One new set of rules establishes special, expedited procedures for lawsuits with less than $75,000 at stake.
In addition, the court has made changes to the pretrial rules that govern all civil cases. These changes are intended to modify practices that have led to unneeded litigation delay and expense.
"Unfortunately, prior to these new rules, people with valid legal claims were being priced out of our civil justice system," Iowa Supreme Court Justice Edward Mansfield, chair of the committee that recommended the changes, said. "Thanks to the hard work and diverse perspectives of the committee members from around the state, we have made some changes. We expect these new rules will reduce, for all parties, the costs and time associated with civil jury trials."
A supreme court committee of district judges, private practice attorneys, civil procedure professors, and a government and a corporate counsel was tasked to come up with reforms to govern all civil cases and a second track for smaller-value cases. After a number of meetings and extensive research, the committee developed the proposals that the supreme court published for public comment on November 1, 2013 and approved in final form today.
Under the expedited civil action rules, the person or entity who files the lawsuit may choose to use expedited process, the case must be tried in one year or less, and the award is limited to $75,000. Pretrial procedures are limited. At trial, the case will be heard by a six person jury and the attorneys on each side will have a six hour limit to present the facts of the case.
The rules that apply to all cases require that both sides participate in a mandatory conference with each other shortly after the lawsuit is filed. Immediately thereafter, both sides are required to provide initial disclosures and a plan for the litigation. The initial disclosures must include identification of persons with information about the case and copies of relevant documents. This is intended to avoid surprises and get basic information about the facts of the dispute out early.
"This new approach to litigation will offer greater access to justice for Iowans with legitimate claims and defenses that were not considered cost effective in the traditional court system," Chief Justice Mark Cady said. "The expedited process, along with our small claims courts and business courts, offer Iowans multiple options for resolving civil disputes of all sizes. The supreme court is dedicated to finding innovative ways to provide faster and less costly resolution of legal disputes."
The order, support material, and the new rules are posted on the Iowa Judicial Branch website HERE.