If you’ve never been involved in a lawsuit in Iowa, knock on wood or do whatever you do for luck, because whatever it is seems to be working.  Even if you’ve been in a lawsuit in Iowa, there are recent changes that you should be aware of in case you unluckily find yourself in the middle of a lawsuit in the future.

Iowa’s Business Court

In 2013, Iowa implemented a pilot program to create a separate Business Court for the state to handle only complex business litigation.  As of February 2016, that pilot program has now been approved to continue as an ongoing part of the Iowa judicial system.  The reasoning behind creating a court that only handles business matters was to create an expertise for this court in handling the normal disputes that arise between businesses, lessen the dockets of other general litigation courts, and use this specialty court to implement technology and innovative practices that could be applicable for the rest of the Iowa court system.

The current business court has 3 judges assigned to it, and a low number of cases, so cases are getting completed much more quickly than in normal courts.  Cases in Iowa Business Court are being resolved on average in 8.75 months, whereas cases can take over a year in regular courts just to get to a trial.   To be eligible for a case to be placed in the Iowa Business Court, the parties in the case must all agree to have it moved to the Business Court docket.  The case also either needs to involve at least $200,000 in damages or seek an injunction or a declaratory decision in a business dispute.  If you have a large business dispute, Iowa’s Business Court may be the best way to get a resolution more quickly and cheaper than through the regular court system.

Expedited Civil Cases

Last year, Iowa also implemented a fast track option for any civil cases with $75,000 or less in damages.  It allows almost anyone filing a lawsuit to unilaterally choose this expedited process rather than the regular court process.  What this means is the case will go to trial within a year of its filing, discovery procedures are greatly reduced (1 expert, 10 interrogatories, 10 requests for production, and 10 requests for admissions), and trial itself will only take 2 days at most.  This process allows parties to litigate their case at a lower cost and faster than on the usual civil docket.  This is a particularly appealing option to limit the potential for the other side to run up your litigation costs for suing them with unnecessary delays and discovery requests.

In conclusion, if you become part of a lawsuit, big or small, here are two ways that you can limit your time and costs involved to hopefully get the end result you want.