On Nov. 28, 2018, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (which includes Chicago, Cook County and the Chicagoland suburbs) amended its Mandatory Initial Discovery Pilot program (MIDP) to eliminate a rule that had been giving defendants significant headaches: the requirement that defendants filing a motion to dismiss a complaint also file an answer to the complaint at the same time. This amendment was made in response to many comments suggesting that the previous MIDP imposed unnecessary costs on defendants. The amendment is effective Dec. 1, 2018.

Background

The Northern District of Illinois launched the MIDP on June 1, 2017. The MIDP contained several provisions that were intended to speed up litigation in the Northern District. Most of the judges in the Northern District of Illinois participate in the MIDP, and thus, its procedural rules transformed how litigation was conducted in the Northern District.

One of the most significant provisions in the MIDP was the following requirement: if a complaint is filed and a defendant wished to file a motion to dismiss, the defendant (with limited exceptions) was also required to file its answer to the complaint at the same time. In other words, even if the defendant believed that the complaint was legally deficient and the case could be ended early by motion, the defendant still had to incur double costs by filing its motion to dismiss the complaint and a separate answer to the potentially many factual allegations of the complaint. This latter requirement forced lawyers to undertake significant factual evaluations with their client at the same time that the lawyers were putting forth legal arguments in briefs for the dismissal of the case. And, all of these tasks and court filings had to be completed within 21 days of the date that the complaint was served upon the defendant.

Furthermore, under the MIDP, once the defendant was forced to file its answer, this filing triggered the MIDP’s 30-day window for the submission of its initial discovery responses to the opposing party. These responses include: (1) the names and contact information of all people who are likely to have discoverable information relevant to claims or defenses and existence of any written or recorded statements; (2) a list of documents and electronically-stored information (including email) known to exist that may be relevant to claims or defenses; (3) a statement of facts relevant to claims and defenses; (4) a computation of damages and a description of the documents upon which this calculation is based; and (5) the existence of any insurance agreements. This was yet another front-loaded cost for the defendant in a Northern District of Illinois civil case.

Amendments to the MIDP

On Nov. 28, 2018, the Northern District issued a notice to attorneys stating that it was amending the MIDP to eliminate the requirement of an answer being filed with a motion to dismiss. Going forward, answers will no longer automatically be required, and the MIDP initial discovery response period will no longer automatically be triggered, while a motion to dismiss the complaint is pending under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Judges have the discretion to depart from this amendment and order an answer to be filed or permit initial discovery disclosures to commence.

The Northern District of Illinois stated that it made this amendment in response to comments suggesting that the early-answer requirement of the MIDP imposed unnecessary costs on parties who ultimately would succeed on a motion to dismiss the complaint.

Ramifications

The MIDP amendment is a positive change for all defendants, including management-side parties who may be sued by individuals bringing meritless claims. This amendment significantly reduces the early front-loaded costs that the original MIDP imposed on defendants. Now, while a defendant’s motion to dismiss is pending, discovery usually will not commence, and litigation costs can be reduced while a court considers whether to grant a motion to dismiss a complaint.