As you know, for the past several weeks, courthouses and judicial employees across the State have been operating in a limited capacity with regard to court hearings and other judicial proceedings. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issued orders postponing certain court hearings and limiting courthouse activity. Justice Beasley also extended filing and other court-related deadlines to June 1, 2020.
Of course, the limitations and extensions set forth by Justice Beasley create many questions and concerns for cases in which lawsuits have been filed or may be filed, including:
How long will the court’s limitations and extensions delay my case?
Generally, hearings “must be scheduled or rescheduled to a date no sooner than June 1, 2020.” Some hearings may be conducted remotely. For all matters that cannot be conducted remotely, courts in many counties are tentatively scheduling in-person hearings beginning mid to late June 2020. This will likely make for a very full court calendar for summer 2020 and beyond.
Will the delay hurt my case?
The court’s delay of proceedings and extension of deadlines should not negatively impact your case. However, the delay will prolong the lifespan of every case that is not otherwise resolved.
How will the delay impact potential settlement negotiations in my case?
The impact, if any, would depend on the specific circumstances of the case. It’s possible that, given the potential economic impact of the pandemic on businesses and individuals, a party may be more inclined to consider settlement. Conversely, a party may be more inclined to wait for an in-person mediation or dispositive hearing before continuing settlement discussions. Again, it really depends on the case.
What can we do right now for my case?
This also depends on the circumstances of your case. For some, this unexpected “lull” in the court schedule could be an opportunity to continue to develop your case (e.g., serve additional discovery requests, continue preparation for a deposition or contact potential expert witnesses). For others, there may not be much that can be done to truly move your case forward without completion of a pending event (e.g., a deposition, a mediation, or a hearing and decision from the court). Some cases and parties could benefit from settlement discussions during this time.
Unfortunately, the full scope of the long-term effects of the pandemic are yet to be determined. If you have questions about how COVID-19 might affect your case, or if you’d like to discuss a new matter with us, please contact us. We are available and ready to serve you.