Quick Justice? Will Parties Agree to Use Expedited Trials?

Post by Randall Ryder

The State of California just passed a bill that now allows expedited jury trials in certain situations. While many parties are hailing the recent bill, will the new system be utilized?

Under the bill, if both parties agree, each side will have three hours to present their side of the case. The act provides for a number of other rules for the speedy trial. 

The jury would be eight people or less. The sides would agree, before the trial, to a high-low damages agreement. The court would also not have a court reporter unless the parties agreed to pay for it. In part, the new bill was the result of the rising number of cases—last year civil filings rose by 11 percent. 

A variety of groups and lobbyists have lauded the bill as the result of many parties working together towards a solution. The bill, however, will only be effective if both parties agree to use the expedited trial—will they?

There are a number of advantages to this system. One, the parties have limited liability. A high-low damages agreement provides both parties with less exposure. For Plaintiffs, they are guaranteed to recover something. For Defendants, they know the maximum liability they will face. 

The speed of the trial in many ways makes the court system more accessible to individuals. Whereas a "normal" trial could take days, if not weeks, the attorney fees in an expedited trial are much lower. Not only is there less time spent in trial, there is less time spent on preparation and other pre-trial motions. While some may argue that paying for a court reporter is a "new" expense, having to pay a court reporter (when requested) is still much cheaper than paying an attorney for a week-long civil trial.

One obvious downside, however, is that both parties have to agree to use the new system. The new system is clearly not designed to handle every kind of case. At the same time, one side may have a vastly different view on whether the speedy system can reach a just resolution on the merits.

The system is certainly not without some downside, but it does present parties another option for resolving their disputes in a cost-effective manner. As time passes, it will be interesting to see how the system is utilized.

What do you think, will the new legislation be a success?

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