The Tennessee Supreme Court recently announced the creation of the Davidson County Business Court Pilot Project. The business court represents the court system’s effort to ensure the development of the necessary experience and knowledge to predictably and effectively manage the myriad of complex issues that are often the subject of business litigation. In taking this step, Tennessee joins 26 other states in creating a specialized trial court to handle complex business and commercial disputes. Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle will preside over the pilot project. Chancellor Lyle has served on the bench since 1995 and is experienced in handling complex business and commercial disputes.

Just as Tennessee has a specialized process for handling worker’s compensation cases, juvenile cases, and criminal cases, Tennessee’s business court will focus on complex commercial litigation. In addition to handling disputes such as claims for breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty, the court will also handle a number of issues not frequently encountered in courts of general jurisdiction, such as tax laws, intellectual property laws, business valuation issues, corporate governance issues, shareholder rights, and the application of federal and state securities laws. The goals of the court will be to expedite cases, develop a body of rulings from which lawyers and litigants can better predict and assess outcomes in business cases, and foster the development of processes that make the business court’s proceedings more efficient for all involved.

In addition, the court will provide proactive, hands-on case management and utilize technology, such as electronic filing. The court will work with litigants to hold earlier case-litigation plan conferences and create more substantive case-litigation plan orders. This feature will make the planning process more meaningful and productive, leading to quicker resolutions. The court will also work with parties to try different models of discovery in an effort to move cases more efficiently. The business court will start taking cases on May 1, 2015, and will only apply to cases with disputes involving damages in excess of $50,000. To access the business court, a litigant will be required to file a request to designate the case to the business court within 60 days of the date of service of a complaint on any defendant to the case. Upon the recommendation of the business court judge, the Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court will determine whether the case is eligible for assignment to the business court. A party can object to assignment to the business court, except eligibility, by filing an objection with the Chief Justice within 30 days of the original order transferring the case to the business court. Litigants in cases outside of Davidson County will also be allowed to request the Chief Justice to assign their cases to the business court if all parties agree to the transfer.

The pilot project will gather data to identify the best practices to implement in the development of future Tennessee business courts. In addition to streamlining the court system for complex business litigation, it is hoped that the business court will be a great tool to attract and retain business in Tennessee.