Wednesday, September 12, 2012

West Virginia's New Business Court

West Virginia's court system repeatedly ranks dead last in surveys about the fairness of states' litigation environments.  Yesterday, the West Virginia Supreme Court took a significant step toward changing that perception by creating a new business court division.

The Business Court Division is governed by Rule 29 of the West Virginia Trial Court Rules. It is not really a new "court," per se.  It is comprised of a panel of current and senior status circuit judges across the state.  It will only handle cases between business entities (business vs. business litigation), so its benefits for businesses in the state will be limited.  Expressly excluded from the court are cases involving personal injury claims, product liability claims, just about all types of consumer claims, insurance coverage disputes, employment claims, and landlord-tenant disputes.  Without such carve-outs, the plaintiff's lawyer lobby would have killed this idea right away.

According to the State Supreme Court, the goal was to design a Court that focuses on the complex issues that arise in commercial litigation.  Parties can file a motion to have their case transferred to the business division, and the Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court will rule on the transfer motion.  Cases handled by the business division will receive expedited treatment, and the presiding judge is charged with making sure "all reasonable efforts" are undertaken to conclude the case within ten months.

I'm not sure how much this will help our business climate, but it certainly can't hurt.