If your company or you have ever been embroiled in a lawsuit, you know what an expensive proposition that is. Between legal fees and the serious drain on your time and energy, litigation can leave you feeling as though you are free falling in the great abyss with no hope of resolution in sight. The “discovery” process, in particular, becomes a mind-numbing journey through mounds of paper and megabytes of data. All too often, the parties spend more on the process than the actual amount in dispute.
With a goal of streamlining the litigation process, the Michigan Supreme Court recently approved sweeping changes to the Michigan Rules of Civil Procedure. Developed by a blue-ribbon panel of judges and lawyers from across the state, the revised rules aim squarely at the excesses and the abuses of the discovery process. The rules shift the focus from lengthy fishing expeditions, where one party digs deeply into the other’s records, to a mandatory disclosure process whereby each party proactively locates and shares information germane to the dispute. While the litigants can still use subpoenas and depositions to seek additional information, the new rules empower trial judges to limit the scope of discovery in a manner “proportionate” to the needs of the case and the issues in dispute.
If all goes to plan, the new rules will force the parties to spend more time at the outset of litigation honing issues and distilling factual disputes, all with the goal of finding a quicker … and ultimately cheaper … path to resolution. Will it work? We won’t know until the new rules take effect on January 1, 2020. Until then, keep your fingers crossed!