Complex Business Litigation and Complex Construction Litigation will be governed by Part IV, Chapter XI of the New Jersey Rules of Court.  The rules were established by the New Jersey Supreme Court.  The new rules were adopted on July 27, 2018 and are now effective as of September 1, 2018.  The rules are applicable to matters with an amount in controversy of at least $200,000 that are designated as either complex commercial (case type 508) or complex construction (case type 513) on the Civil Case Information Sheet (“CIS”) filed with the Complaint.[1]  These cases should arise from business or commercial transactions or construction projects that involve potentially significant damages.  The matters may have complex or novel factual or legal issues; large number of separately represented parties; large numbers of lay and expert witnesses; a substantial amount of documentary evidence, including electronically stored information or require a substantial amount of time to try.[2]  Cases filed in the Chancery Division or those involving consumers, labor organizations, personal injury or condemnation are not governed by these rules.[3] 

            The Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court has designated a Superior Court judge from each vicinage to preside over cases designated as Complex Business Litigation or Complex Commercial Litigation.[4]  Parties may choose to opt-in or opt-out of the program.[5]  The cases are reviewed by the Assignment Judge or Superior Court judge designated in each vicinage initially to determine if appropriate for the program.  The judge may, sua sponte, assign a case or remove it from the program. If removed the case will then be reassigned to the appropriate track for case management.[6]  The goal of this program is to streamline and expedite service to litigants in complex business litigation.[7]

            Once a case is assigned to the Complex Commercial/Complex Construction track, the case is then case managed.  At the outset, the parties must exchange Initial Disclosures.[8]  The parties must make the initial disclosures at or within fourteen (14) days after the parties R. 4:103-2 conference unless a different time is set by stipulation, order of the court or an objection is raised.[9]  If a party is served or joined later that party has thirty (30) days after being served or joined, unless a different time is set by stipulation or the court.[10]  The parties must make their initial disclosures based upon information reasonably available to them.  A party will not be excused from making initial disclosures because it has not fully investigated the matter or because another party has not yet made their initial disclosures.  All initial disclosures will be in writing, signed and served to all parties.  Failure to provide compliant initial disclosures may lead to sanctions under the court’s discretion.[11]

            An Initial Conference of the Parties is required at least twenty-one (21) days prior to a scheduling conference.  The parties are responsible for conferring about (1) the nature and basis of their claims and defenses and the possibilities for promptly settling or resolving the case; (2) make or arrange for the disclosures required by Rule 4:103-(a)(1); (3) discuss any issues about preserving discoverable information; and (4) develop a proposed discovery plan.  The parties are then responsible for attempting in good faith to agree on a proposed discovery plan and submitting it to the court within fourteen (14) days after the conference.  The requirements of the discovery plan are outlined in Rule 4:103-2(c).  The court may then order the parties to appear for a conference.[12] 

            Case Management Conferences and Scheduling Orders are also governed by these rules.  An Initial Case Management Conference must be held and thereafter a Scheduling Order must be issued as soon as practicable, but absent good cause for delay, within the earlier of ninety (90) days after any defendant has been served with the complaint or sixty (60) days after any defendant has appeared.  The scheduling order must limit the time to join parties, amend pleadings complete discovery and file motions.  The parties may agree to modify these deadlines so long as the discovery end date is not impacted.[13]

            The court in its discretion may hold additional case management conferences.[14]  A represented party must authorize at least one of its attorneys to make stipulations and admissions of all matters that can be reasonably expected to be discussed at a conference.  The matters for consideration at a Case Management Conference are outlined within the rules.[15]

            The discovery rules for cases designated as Complex Business/Complex Construction Litigation are truncated.  In particular, the number of depositions taken by plaintiffs is limited to ten (10).  The number of depositions taken by defendants and third-party defendants is also limited to ten (10). The depositions are also limited to seven (7) hours per deponent.[16]  The number of interrogatories is also limited and the time to respond reduced. The normal sixty (60) day period in Rule 4:17-4(b) for serving answers to interrogatories is reduced to thirty (30) days unless otherwise stipulated amongst the parties.  Each party may only propound upon another fifteen (15) interrogatories including subparts, unless otherwise stipulated amongst the parties.[17]  The production of documents, production of electronically stored information and inspections are also addressed separately.  Expert witness discovery is also required now without the need for specific interrogatories.  Rather a party intending to present evidence under N.J.R.E. 702, 703 or 705 must disclose all information in R. 4:17-4(e) at least ninety (90) days before trial and if there is evidence to rebut such expert witness it must be supplied within thirty (30) days after the disclosure.[18]

            Finally motions are governed separately if the case is designated as a Complex Business/Complex Construction Litigation.[19]

            If you have any questions, please contact Joseph Leone at jleone@hoaglandlongo.com or call 732-545-4717 today.

 

[1] Rule 4:102-2(a)

[2] R. 4:102-2(b)

[3] R. 4:102-2(c)

[4] R. 4:102-3

[5] R. 4:102-4(a)

[6] R. 4:102-4(b)

[7] R. 4:102-5

[8] R. 4:103-1(a)

[9] R. 4:103-1(b)(1)

[10] R. 4:103-1(b)(2)

[11] R. 4:103-1(c) and (d)

[12] R. 4:103-2(a) through (c)

[13] R. 4:103-3(a)

[14] R. 4:103-3(b)

[15] R. 103-3(c) and (d)

[16] R. 104-3(a)(1) and (2)

[17] R. 104-4(a) through (e)

[18] R. 104-7(a) and (b)

[19] R. 105 et al