Litigation News – One Day Jury Trials Coming Soon

by: David Melton, Lindsay Goulding and F. Will Jackson

A new day is coming for civil litigants who want their day in court without the expense and burden of a standard civil jury trial. The Governor recently passed The Expedited Jury Trials Act (AB 2284). The new law allows parties to agree to a shorter trial with modified procedural rules.

Under AB 2284, the parties agree to a jury of no more than eight people, a limit of three peremptory challenges for both sides, and three hours for each side to present its case. The parties also waive their right to appeal on most issues, as well as the right to move for a directed verdict.

Another key feature of the expedited trial authorized under the new law is the high/low agreement. This is a written agreement specifying a minimum and maximum amount of damages for which the defendant will be liable, regardless of the ultimate verdict returned by the jury. The high/low agreement is entered into by the parties before trial and is not disclosed to the jury.

Although the format of the expedited jury trial is different, some key features of a civil jury will remain the same. The jury will still be given as much time as needed to deliberate. The rules of evidence still apply, unless the parties stipulate otherwise, and statutes regarding costs and attorney’s fees remain the same.

The new format should help cut down the cost of litigation significantly. Not only can the system be used for relatively simple cases with a smaller financial amount at stake, it can also be used to try a single determinative issue in a larger, more complex case. Either way, it is a step toward greater judicial efficiency and a justice system in which the cost and burden of going to trial will no longer be as much of a deterrent for those seeking their day in court.  For more information about AB 2284, contact our office.