Articles Tagged with scheduling orders in truck wreck cases

Here are the first few paragraphs of an article that I wrote for the November 2009 edition of the Tennessee Bar Journal titled "Party Planning for Tort Lawyers."  Rest the rest of the article (and the footnotes) here.

Litigation in a world of comparative fault and several liability involves party planning. Planning a party is hard work. One essential component of the party planning process is determining who to invite, and party planning by committee presents a whole new set of challenges. Everyone agrees that some people must be at the party. Everyone agrees that certain people should not be there. And, while everyone agrees that the party should occur on the selected date, there is often a disagreement about whether certain people should be extended a party invitation.
 
In tort litigation, the original host of the party is the plaintiff, and the plaintiff frequently has a good idea of who should be invited to the party. Competent plaintiff’s lawyers also want the party to occur as soon as reasonably possible.

        Scheduling orders are wonderful tools that are often overlooked by far too many plaintiff’s lawyers. One of the most important deadlines to put in a scheduling order is a deadline by which the defendant must allege the fault of a person not a party to the action.

       Plaintiff’s lawyers have the responsibility to reasonably investigate their case and prepare it for trial. That responsibility includes the identification of at-fault defendants and the development of evidence against those defendants. 

       Defense lawyers also have the responsibility to reasonably investigate their case and prepare it for trial. That responsibility includes the identification of other at-fault parties, including those who are not a party to the action. 

         One of the battles in the preparation of scheduling orders is the deadlines for disclosure of expert witnesses. The defense always wants the plaintiff to go first, and wants an additional 30 or 60 or even 90 days to disclose its experts. Sometimes, the defense wants to depose the plaintiff’s experts before disclosing its own experts, a ridiculous position that should be rejected by every trial judge. Simultaneous disclosures are rarely ordered by judges in Tennessee.

          I am involved in a case in federal court in West Virginia and learned that it has an eminently fair way of resolving the problem of the timing of expert witness disclosures. Here is the language used in the West Virginia judge’s scheduling orders:

The party having the burden of proof on an issue shall disclose all expert witnesses on that issue on or before ___________. The party not having the burden of proof on an issue shall disclose all expert witnesses on that issue on or before ______________.