The Scheduling Order – Arizona’s Tiering System

The Courts attempt to speed up the litigation process

Several months ago we reported on the new “tiering system.” Just a reminder, there are now three tiers of classification for cases:  1:  Up to $50,000:  2: $50,000 to $300,000: and 3: $300,000 and above.  Depending on the classification, discovery is designed to be “proportional” to the value of the case.

As most of our cases fall into Tier 2 or 3, this article will discuss those classifications. For Tier 2, discovery is limited to 180 days.  For tier 3, discovery is limited to 240 days.

That sounds like a lot of time on paper.  In reality, it is a flash.  Most of the time, despite diligent effort from both sides, extensions are needed.  So far, the judges have been fairly lenient and understanding in granting extensions as long as both sides agree that there has been no intentional delay in conducting the discovery required under the rules.

It is becoming apparent that a 4th classification is needed for most Medical Negligence cases.  All of those cases involve expert witnesses who are usually located out of state.  All of those cases involve medical professionals as defendants who have busy practices.  Scheduling Defendant depositions is difficult and time consuming.  Ninety to One Hundred days can easily be seen to expire before the defendants are ever deposed.

Scheduling depositions for out of State witnesses was difficult before the Tiering System came to be.  Getting them complete within the timeframe allowed for Tier 3 cases has proven to be next to impossible.  It is necessary to depose the treating/defendants before any expert deposition is taken.  Then the transcript has to be prepared and sent for proofreading. Then the transcript once proof read, has to be supplied to the expert.  Then a time has to be found when the defense lawyer, plaintiff’s lawyer and the expert can all meet at the same time to take the expert’s deposition.  In the blink of an eye, 150 days or more can be eaten up accomplishing the above.

The New Tiering rules contemplate that both sides essentially know what is needed to be known about the case before it is even filed.  This is never true.  That is why in 1939 the Rules of Civil Procedure were adopted to allow both sides to “Discover” from the other side what the case is about and what the defenses are.  Those rules have been modified and amended numerous times since then, the Tiering system being the latest major amendment.

So far, Plaintiff and Defense lawyers are working the best that they can with one another to meet the imposed deadlines.  As with any new program, changes will be required as deficiencies are noted.   We will keep you informed.  In the meantime, our software case management system continues to alert us every day to the things that need to be done and when the last day to complete them is upon us.  Rest assured we at The Rockafellow Law Firm will stay on top of things and do all that we can to move your case through the system in a timely manner consistent with the rules.

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