Denver Bar Association
December 2011
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Piloting Change: A Brief Overview of the Colorado Civil Access Pilot Project Rules

by Jessica L. Fuller, Tamara F. Goodlette

Piloting Change: A Brief Overview of the Colorado Civil Access Pilot Project Rules

I

 

n Chief Justice Directive 11-02, the Colorado Supreme Court approved a new set of civil procedure rules known as the Colorado Civil Access Pilot Project. The goals of the Pilot Project are to increase access to the courts and reduce the expense of civil litigation by identifying and narrowing disputed issues at the earliest stage of litigation; requiring ongoing active case management by a single judge; and keeping litigation costs proportionate to the issues being litigated through controlled discovery and other means.

The Pilot Project makes significant changes to the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure for certain types of business cases in specified judicial districts, which will dramatically affect the way civil cases are litigated. Below is a brief overview of the highlights of the Pilot Project Rules (PPRs).

Not all of the PPRs are addressed below and they may continue to be amended through 2011. To review the full set of the most recent version of the PPRs, visit www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/Supreme_Court/Directives and click on Chief Justice Directive 11-02, "Civil Litigation in Business Actions."

 

Introduction to the Pilot Project

When do the PPRs take effect?

• The PPRs are effective Jan. 1 for certain types of cases filed on or after that date, and will be in effect for applicable cases filed in the next two years.

What happens at the
conclusion of the two years?

• During the two-year period when the PPRs are in effect, IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, will collect data to measure the effects of the procedural changes. The study results will be used to determine whether to make future amendments to the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure.

Where do the Pilot Project Rules apply?

• For designated cases in the First Judicial District (Jefferson and Gilpin counties), Second Judicial District (Denver County), Seventeenth Judicial District (Adams County), and the Eighteenth Judicial District (Arapahoe County).

What kinds of cases are governed by the PPRs?

• "Inclusion in the pilot project will be determined based on the contents of the complaint at the commencement of the action," according to PPR 1.1.

• The PPRs will apply to cases that are predominately "business actions" as defined in Amended Appendix A of CJD 11-02. Amended Appendix A lists various types of "included actions" and "excluded actions." Litigators in the specified judicial districts should refer to Amended Appendix A to determine whether a case is subject to the PPRs.

Do the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure still apply?

• Yes. The PPRs are not a complete set of rules and the C.R.C.P. will continue to govern, except where there is an inconsistency, in which case the PPRs will control. (See PPR 1.2.)

Are the PPRs optional?

• No. In fact, the court may impose sanctions for any failure to timely or completely comply with the PPRs. (See PPR 11.1.)

Overview of Central Provisions of the Pilot Project Rules 

Proportionality is the Buzz Word

• All aspects of the case shall be addressed by the court and the parties to assure the process and costs are proportionate to the needs of the case. The proportionality factors include the "amount in controversy, and complexity and importance of the issues at stake in the litigation. …This proportionality rule shall shape the process of the case in order to achieve a just, timely, efficient, and cost effective determination of all actions." (See PPR 1.3.)

Notice Pleading Plus

• "The party that bears the burden of proof with respect to any claim or affirmative defense should plead all material facts that are known to that party," including "any known monetary damages." (See PPR 2.2.)

• General denials of any statement of fact are not permitted. (See PPR 2.3.)

Defendants Must Answer, and Motions to Dismiss Do Not Stay the Case

• Even if you elect to file a motion to dismiss, you also must file an answer. (See PPR 4.1.)

• Unless otherwise prohibited by statute, the filing of a motion to dismiss will not delay any pleading, disclosure, or case management deadlines. (Id.)

After You Plead, Get Ready to Disclose

• No later than 21 days after service of a pleading making a claim for relief or defending against a claim for relief, the pleading party must file its initial disclosures with the court. (See PPR 3.1, 3.3.)

Meet, Confer, and Preserve

• Within 14 days after the filing of an answer, the parties must meet and confer regarding the "reasonable preservation of all relevant documents and things, including any electronically stored information." (See PPR 6.1.)

Do Not Expect Extensions or Continuances

• Motions for extensions of time or continuances (including motions to change the trial date) are strongly disfavored and will be denied on receipt, absent extraordinary circumstances. (See PPR 1.4, 8.5.)

• Stipulated motions to continue or extend deadlines are not binding on the court and parties should assume the court will deny such motions. (See PPR 1.4.)

Do Expect Active Case Management

• One judge will be assigned to the case for all purposes, and "absent unavoidable or extraordinary circumstances," that judge will remain assigned to the case through its final resolution. (See PPR 5.1.)

• No later than 49 days after the responsive pleadings are filed, the judge shall hold an initial case management conference, which each party’s lead trial counsel is required to attend. (See PPR 7.1.)

• The court will provide ongoing, active case management, and the parties may contact the court for prompt conferences to clarify or modify any court order or resolve any disputed pretrial matter. (See PPR 8.1, 8.2.)

Factual and Expert Discovery Will Be Limited

• Discovery will be limited, based on the proportionality factors and "matters that would enable a party to prove or disprove a claim or defense or to impeach a witness." (See PPR 9.1.)

• Absent extraordinary circumstances, only one expert witness per side may submit a report and testify in any given specialty or with respect to any given issue. (See PPR 10.2.)

• An expert’s testimony will be limited to matters disclosed in reasonable detail in the report. (See PPR 10.1(b).)

• Along with the expert’s report, a party also must produce its expert’s files at the time the witness is disclosed. (See PPR 10.1(a), (c), App. C (defining scope of production and noting parties do not have to produce their expert’s draft reports).)

• There will be no depositions or other discovery of experts. (See PPR 10.1(d).)

Key Deadlines

• Twenty-one days after service of the complaint, plaintiff files initial disclosures. (See PPR 3.1.)

• Twenty-one days after plaintiff’s initial disclosures are filed, defendant files a responsive pleading, which must include an answer. (See PPR 3.2, 4.1.)

• Fourteen days after defendant’s responsive pleading is filed, the parties meet and confer regarding preservation of documents and electronically stored information. (See PPR 6.1.)

• Twenty-one days after service of defendant’s responsive pleading, defendant files initial disclosures. (See PPR 3.3.)

• Seven days before the case management conference, parties file a joint case management report in the form set forth in Appendix B of CJD 11.2. (See PPR 7.1, App. B.)

• No later than 49 days after defendant’s responsive pleading is filed, the case management conference is held, and lead counsel must attend. (See PPR 7.1.)

Generally, within 91 days of service of the complaint, the answer, any motions to dismiss, all disclosures, and the joint case management report will be filed and the case management conference will have occurred.

The PPRs are an attempt to improve the management of the civil litigation process and increase access to our judicial system by controlling the discovery process and lessening the expense of litigation. We urge litigators in the Denver area to support the Pilot Project and share their feedback during the two-year pilot period with IAALS. D

 

Jessica Fuller and Tamara Goodlette are litigation associates at Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons LLP and can be reached at (303) 623-9000 or jfuller@rothgerber.com and tgoodlette@rothgerber.com.


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