Case Evaluation is used in most Civil cases. This might include allegations that a business has been negligent, that a contractor has not completed a job, or that a business has not met its obligations to another business under a contract as well as many other types of claims. Although Court is an option, parties to these types of cases can always first try to work things out without the involvement of Court. For example, in some cases, hiring an attorney to help negotiate with the other side can lead to a resolution without ever needing to file a Court case and can keep costs to a minimum.
Once a Court case is filed, a schedule is set. The schedule will include a date for “Case Evaluation” about 7-9 months after the case is filed. This length of time is due to the availability of court time, but it also allows for “Discovery” to be completed. Discovery is the process of each side learning relevant information that they need to learn to be able to proceed with the case. This may include getting documents, conducting “depositions” of witnesses (sworn statements that indicate what the witness will testify to at trial) or other information. Often, it is hard to obtain this information from the other side before a court case is started, but there are rules requiring that this information be produced once a case is started. Often, simply getting this information can contribute to a resolution of a case through agreement of the parties, again keeping costs to a minimum.
Case Evaluation is done under Michigan Court Rule 2.403. According to this rule, “A court may submit to case evaluation any civil action in which the relief sought is primarily money damages or division of property. Case evaluation of tort cases filed in Circuit Court is mandatory.” A tort case is one where a “wrong” is claimed such as negligence.
Parties may request that the case be excused from case evaluation if money damages or division of property is not claimed. For example, in a case where property has been condemned, the relief requested is the restoration of use of the property to its owner. A Motion must be filed with the Court to request removal of the case from Case Evaluation.
For those cases that are still not resolved when the date of Case Evaluation is approaching, a Brief must be filed with the Court no later than 14 days before the scheduled date of Case Evaluation (you will receive a separate notice from the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Clerk, with instructions, approximately six weeks prior to your Case Evaluation date.) There is a fee of $150 charged if this is not provided, so parties must be aware of this requirement.
Parties and their attorneys, if they have them, arrive at the Judicial Center on the date Case Evaluation is scheduled and check in at Circuit Court. The case is presented before a panel of three attorney case evaluators, who have been selected by the Court according to its ADR Plan. Each case is given about 15 minutes for presentation, and then the panel discusses the case and immediately provides an opinion about whether or not there should be an award of money, and if so, what the amount should be. Parties then have 28 days in which to decide whether to accept or reject the award. They must submit a response within that time, or a rejection will be assumed. After the 28 days have expired, parties are notified of the response.
If either party has objected, or failed to respond, then the case will proceed to trial. If the award is accepted by both parties, then the case is considered to be resolved, and the parties will enter into a Consent Agreement which will become an Order of the Court.
- If you are going to Case Evaluation, you will need to submit a brief summarizing your case no less than 14 days before the scheduled Case Evaluation. There is a $150 fine for missing this date.
- Your case will be evaluated by a panel of 3 attorney evaluators. Each party will pay a fee of $75 at the time of Case Evaluation.
- All fees for Case Evaluation are payable directly to the Case Evaluators in three checks of equal amounts.
- In some cases, the Court may agree to hold your Case Evaluation on a different date. You must contact the Assignment Clerk for your judge at (517) 546-9816 to request an Adjournment.
- If you do not show on the assigned date, you will still be charged $75 fee, because the Case Evaluators have set aside their time for Case Evaluation.
- The Case Evaluators are selected from a list of qualified attorneys who meet specific requirements set out by the Michigan Supreme Court.
- Your Evaluators will recommend a resolution to your case, including whether there should be an award, and if so how much, at the time of evaluation.
- If one of the parties rejects the award, then the case proceeds to trial.
- The both parties accept the award, then the case is considered to be resolved and the award will be translated into a Consent Judgment, which is an Order signed by the parties and the Court.
- An attorney who is interested in becoming a Case Evaluator can complete and return a Case Evaluator Application (MC34).