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  Civil Rule 16

The Delaware Court System is recognized nationally as a leader in many areas of law, but has become especially renowned for the efficient handling of business cases.

The Superior Court has adopted rules and procedures specifically designed to allow major commercial litigation to be resolved expeditiously and cost-effectively. These rules allow for proceedings, known as Summary Proceedings, in which the parties have agreed to limited discovery and to waive the right to jury trial and punitive damages. This simplification of the usual civil trial process means that the normal delays associated with litigation are greatly reduced. Summary Proceedings are assigned by the President Judge among a panel of experienced judges selected to hear such cases. (See: Summary Proceedings for Commercial Disputes Panel Order.)

Cases are eligible for participation in summary proceedings if they meet the following criteria: 1) the amount in controversy must be at least $100,000 as to one party unless otherwise waived by the court upon application by the parties; 2) one party must be a Delaware citizen, corporation or other business entity; 3) all of the parties must agree to the matter being tried as a summary proceeding; and 4) the claim must be contractual or commercial in nature.

Where all parties consent in advance of the filing of a complaint to the treatment of the litigation as a summary proceeding, the action may be thus filed. The complaint must contain a statement showing that all four criteria have been met to allow it to proceed as such. An action which has been previously filed in any court may be converted into a summary proceeding if the action could have been brought initially under these rules.

During the discovery process, parties are limited to ten interrogatories and requests for admission and depositions are limited only to the opposing party's witness and affiants and an additional four persons. Litigants are required at an early stage in the proceedings to identify the documents they intend to rely upon at trial and any person they consulted in preparation of the complaint or first responsive pleading. Discovery cut-off dates are definite and final under these rules. All depositions must be completed within 120 days from service of the last answer and all discovery must be completed within 180 days from service of the last answer. There are no motions for summary judgment.

Trial, which may be on the record or with live witnesses, shall commence within 30 to 60 days after the close of discovery and shall last no more than 5 trial days. The parties file simultaneous post-trial briefs and the court renders a decision within 30 days of the conclusion of the trial or oral argument, if such occurs. The end result is that a final judgment is expected approximately nine months from the date of the filing of the complaint.