Expedited Trials and Expert Witness Testimony

As operating budgets are cuts and courts are forced to shorten the working day, several state court systems have enacted voluntary “expedited trial” proceedings allowing both sides to limit the expenses associated with trial. Other states are currently considering both voluntary and involuntary expedited trials processes. Although each state has its own set of rules, all programs limit witness testimony.

Expert Witness Testimony Limits

The limitation of witness testimony can be a double edged sword. On the one hand, witness testimony takes a large chunk of time in each trial, on the other, witnesses offer invaluable information about what happened and who may be responsible. Expert witnesses add another layer the civil litigation process as they are able to offer evidence beyond what they saw or did. They provide clarification on complex issues, explain medical procedures and help the jury truly understand what occurred.

In California, participation in expedited trials are voluntary and limited to 3 hours per side and each side is limited to the use of one expert witness unless there is an agreement to allow additional testimony. This limitation becomes an important consideration for attorneys who wish to use the expedited trial process as an expedited trial will get their case through the system quicker but may not allow adequate expert testimony.

In Minnesota, expedited trials are also limited to the testimony of one expert witness unless the magistrate judge orders additional witness testimony or the parties agree to additional experts.

In Oregon, expedited trials are also voluntary and cases are tried in front of a 6 person jury. Interestingly, expert witness testimony must be disclosed 25 days before the trial by way of an expert witness report.

Texas recently implemented an expedited trial rule which will go into effect March 1, 2013. And Utah is considering using expedited trials. The full extent of these regulations remains to be seen, but it is safe to assume that expert witness testimony will be affected by the expedited trials.

As an attorney considering an expedited trial it is important to consider the testimony limits the expedited trial may pose. Ask yourself whether one expert witness is enough and if you can present your case in the time allotted.

By: Mary Wenzel, J.D.