Reform of Civil Suit Procedural Rules Laws Could Jeopardize Nursing Home Abuse Cases

New Law Clarification Gives Added Protections to SeniorsTrenton, NJ-The success of any civil lawsuit, including suits pertaining to nursing home abuse and neglect, is dependent upon the procedural rules. The period after a civil suit is filed is crucial to any type of civil action, but there are proposals being floated in Washington D. C. that would change procedural rules and drastically limit the ability of an individual to take on a large corporation or government entity through civil action.

Last month, hearings were conducted before the Judicial Conference of the United States in order to determine if the rules are necessary to streamline the civil court system and reduce the cost of civil litigation.

Most people are unaware of the steps an attorney must take in order to present a civil case in court. There is a great deal of paperwork that must be filed and legal counsel must conduct an investigation to build a strong and effective case. This investigatory period is known as discovery and is critical to every case whether they are civil or criminal.

Discovery is the period of time when both parties of a lawsuit are given the opportunity to access documents, interview witnesses and conduct depositions. Any nursing home abuse attorney will tell you that the discovery period is very crucial to any civil case, this is the period were they have access to information that could result in a settlement, allowing the parties to avoid a costly trial.

The proposed changes to procedural rules would allow responding parties to determine which information is proportionate to the case, increase incidents in which courts assign the costs of discovery to the requesting party rather than the party producing the documents and place stringent limits on depositions. The rule changes would also remove incentives to preserve documents, according to the American Association for Justice.

In some civil cases, attorneys must have the access to a large volume of documents in order to establish their case. Limiting their access to documents could dramatically reduce the amount of information that attorney needs to shed light on an issue and will jeopardize their client’s case.

“These changes would devastate Americans’ access to justice and rig the courts in favor of corporations that violate our rights,” said Burton LeBlanc, president of the American Association for Justice. “This will further stack the deck against American citizens and small businesses seeking accountability in court.”

The AAJ says if these new rules are enacted, obtaining pertinent documents, especially from large corporations, would be “extremely burdensome, maybe even impossible.”

The proposed rule changes are backed by large corporations who would most benefit from limiting access to documents. But there is little evidence to indicate that procedural rule changes would benefit the individual or a small business.

Hearings on the rules are still in the committee phase, but should they be passed it will severely limit reasonable access to the civil justice system and make it harder for people to obtain fair compensation.