In an effort to control the court dockets and speed the resolution of civil matters, in the early 1990s Nevada’s state courts implemented a diversion program for smaller civil suits At its most basic, with certain exceptions, cases with a preliminary value of less than $50,000 are assigned to a non-binding arbitration program. The program features accelerated discovery and hearing deadlines which encourage efficient handing. The program offers many benefits to all involved. Yet, because the program is non-binding, there is a procedure by which any party may remove the case to a state district court after the arbitration hearing. At that point, the process starts over.
The assignment of an arbitrator also tolls the time period within which to hold the NRCP 16.1(b)(1) early case conference (“ECC”) and the filing of the resulting joint case conference report (“JCCR”). Assume for this post that a case has proceeded through the arbitration and a party has appropriately requested the case be removed to state district court. What are the requirements for an ECC or a new JCCR?
NRCP 16.1(b)(1) is a good place to start. It states
Unless otherwise ordered by the court or the discovery commissioner, parties to any case wherein a timely trial de novo request has been filed subsequent to an arbitration, need not hold a further in person conference, but must file a joint case conference report pursuant to subdivision (c) of this rule within 60 days from the date of the de novo filing, said report to be prepared by the party requesting the trial de novo.
The rule itself creates two questions for me preliminarily and thus far I am unaware of case law from the Supreme Court of Nevada resolving them. First, the rule clearly eliminates the requirement of a new early case conference, but still requires a joint case conference report. Although not explicitly stated, it appears if a party removes an arbitration case to district court, the original 240 day window within which to file a joint case conference report in a case not exempted from arbitration is displaced by this shorter 60 day rule.
This leads to the second question. In a non-arbitration case, if the plaintiff fails to file the JCCR within 240 days, NRCP 16.1(e)(2) states “the case may be dismissed as to that defendant upon motion or on the court’s own initiative, without prejudice.” There is no explicit equivalent to NRCP 16.1(e)(2) for cases removed from arbitration to the district court. It seems logical to conclude the same policy reasons apply and a violation of the 60 day requirement of NRCP 16.1(b)(1) would trigger the consequences of NRCP 16.1(e)(2).
The other factor to consider is the party requesting trial de novo is responsible for filing the JCCR when the case is removed to district court. In every other case, this burden falls upon a plaintiff. What if the defendant requests the trial de novo but fails to file the JCCR within 60 days? This is not an issue I have yet encountered but is one to consider.