Commercial Courts: Coming to a county near you

In July of 2015, the Indiana Supreme Court issued an order that began the process of establishing a new kind of specialty court in Indiana known as a “Commercial Court”. As part of that Order, Allen County was selected as a “test county” for this type of specialty court, and beginning in July of 2016, Judge Craig Bobay began hearing cases in Allen County’s Commercial Court. The purpose of the Commercial Court, according to the Indiana Supreme Court, was to improve predictability, both in procedure and in results, and to increase the efficiency by having a Court that specializes in commercial matters hear and adjudicate commercial legal issues.

Thus, as of July 2016, the Allen County Commercial Court hears the following cases: (1) disputes between/among two or more business entities relating to contracts, transactions, or relationships between or among them; (2) the formation, governance, dissolution, or liquidation of a business; (3) the rights or obligations between or among owners, shareholders, or officers; (4) trade secret, non-disclosure, non-compete, non-solicitation, or employment agreements involving businesses, employees, owners, and/or shareholders; and (5) the rights, obligations, liabilities, or indemnities of owners, shareholders, and/or officers owed to or from the business.

The Allen County Commercial Court’s jurisdiction is limited to those above matters and those matters only. Therefore, it cannot hear personal injury, survivor, or wrongful death cases, consumer claims against business entities or insurers of business entities (including product liability and personal injury cases), routine collection cases, environment cases, eminent domain cases, employment law cases, discrimination cases, administrative agency, tax, zoning and other appeals, name change, mental health, or guardian cases, individual residential real estate disputes, any case subject to the domestic relations, juvenile, or probate courts’ jurisdiction, any case subject to city, town, or small claim courts’ exclusive jurisdiction, any criminal cases, any case involving only wages, hours, occupational health or safety, workers’ compensation or unemployment compensation, or any case required by statute or law to be heard in some other court. As you can see, the jurisdiction of the Allen County Commercial Court is very limited.

But if your case falls within the scope of the Allen County Commercial Court’s jurisdiction, the Allen County Commercial Court could provide a number of benefits. For one, all commercial courts will endeavor to utilize a specific case-management practice, special to commercial court cases, which will include: (1) a more detailed case-management plan, (2) more periodic case-management conferences, (3) more joint status reports, (4) more electronic filing of documents, with a special emphasis on electronic discovery, (5) more court availability upon short notice, and (6) the utilization of court masters, which are independent attorneys, senior judges, or non-attorneys that hear certain parts of a case, like discovery and/or evidentiary disputes. The purpose of this special, commercial court case-management plan is to move cases along more efficiently, save costs for the parties, and make cases more predictable for the parties.

To be placed in the Allen County Commercial Court, you must file this request when your Complaint is filed (if you’re the Plaintiff) or you must file your request when your attorney files his appearance (if you’re the Defendant). If you feel you have a case that suits the new Allen County Commercial Court, please contact us to discuss whether you might benefit from this type of specialty court. The Allen County Commercial Court may be a more cost-effective and efficient way for you to handle your commercial disputes.

A native of Fort Wayne, Micah J. Nichols is an attorney at Beers Mallers Backs & Salin, LLP and counsels clients in a wide array of corporate and personal matters.