On November 13, 2014, the Acting Administrative Director of the New Jersey State Courts issued a Notice to the Bar implementing a November 13, 2014, order by the New Jersey Supreme Court authorizing the implementation of the Complex Business Litigation Program.
The text of the notice is repeated below. As this program ramps up, we hope to be able to share the rules and decisions of these new commercial courts with you, just as we now share information about New York’s Commercial Divisions.
Complex Business Litigation Program
The 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 is based on the report and recommendations of the Supreme Court Working Group on Business Litigation, which report was published for comment by April 10, 2014 notice to the bar.
The Program will begin on January 1, 2015 for such complex cases filed on or after that date that fulfill the program eligibility criteria as set forth below. It will feature the designation of Complex Business Litigation Judges in each vicinage, with those designated judges receiving over time extensive specialized training in all areas relating to business litigation. The list of designated Complex Business Litigation Judges also accompanies this notice.
The details of the Program are as follows:
- 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.
- 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:,/li>
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 claims 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.
- Other Suitable Actions: Actions to establish a constructive trust or impose an equitable lien to satisfy damages are also cognizable in the Complex Business Litigation Program, as are cases primarily seeking legal relief in which ancillary injunctive relief is sought.
- Excluded Actions – The Program does not include matters that are handled by General Equity or matters primarily involving consumers, labor organizations, personal injury, or condemnation, or cases in which the government is a party.
- Jury and Non-Jury Matters – The Program encompasses both jury and non-jury matters.
- Opt-in/Opt-out – 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 the Program to determine if the case is appropriate for inclusion. If after review, 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. Cases removed from the Program will be reassigned to the appropriate track for case management.
- Complementary 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 – Each Complex Business Litigation Judge will be expected 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.
Questions concerning the Complex Business Litigation Program may be directed to Kevin M. Wolfe. Esq., Assistant Director for Civil Practice. Administrative Office of the Courts, Hughes Justice Complex, P.O. Box 981, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0981; telephone (609) 292-8470; email address firstname.lastname@example.org.