Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

The Pros and Cons of Nevada’s Short Trial Program

A unique Nevada alternative to conventional litigation is the Short Trial Program.  Short Trial is not a good fit for every case.  But it has many advantages that the parties should consider.  Many are familiar with the downsides to bringing a conventional lawsuit for damages.  Most cases take what seems like forever to get to trial.  The lawyer and witnesses can be expensive.  The trial might go for Short Term Trialdays or weeks at a time.  Then after trial, the parties are at risk to pay the other side’s fees and costs if they lose.  Let’s contrast Short Trials to conventional litigation to best understand the pros and cons of the Short Trial Program.

Most Nevada civil cases with a value of $50,000 or less are arbitrated before going to trial.  Do I have to go through the Mandatory Court-Annexed Arbitration Program before I can go to a Short Trial?

You do not have to wait until your case is arbitrated to participate in a Short Trial.  You have the ability to stipulate to a Short Trial before you are assigned to the arbitration program or even if the case has been exempted from arbitration.  Another advantage is that if you stipulate, you have the ability to set a cap on the damages which may be awarded.  In a regular jury trial, the sky’s the limit as far as damages are concerned.

Even if you’ve gone through the arbitration program, you can still ask for “trial de novo” at a Short Trial.  At the Short Trial, the jury will hear an instruction that tells them the finding of the arbitrator on each cause of action and the amount of damages awarded.  Therefore, if the arbitration award is well reasoned, it may be difficult to overcome the presumption that the arbitrator knew what he or she was doing.

Who would preside at my Short Trial?  Do I have to give up my right to a jury if I decide to go to Short Trial?

Like regular litigation, a Short Trial is presented either to a jury or to a Short Trial Judge.  Short Trials are normally presided over by Judges Pro Tempore.  Mike Mills is a Judge Pro Tem who presides over Short Trials.  The parties can stipulate to using a qualified Judge Pro Tem and they can decide to use a 4, 6 or 8 person jury.

If I elect a Short Trial, how long before my trial will start?

If you elect a Short Trial, you are assigned a date certain for your trial to start, as opposed to trailing on the court docket until the district court judge has time for you.  If a case enters the Short Trial Program following arbitration, trial must be held within 120 days from the date a judge is assigned unless the parties stipulate and the judge approves.  If parties bypass arbitration and enter the program by stipulation, trial must be held 240 days of the parties stipulating to place a case in the short trial program.

If I elect a Short Trial, how long will it take to present the trial itself?

At a Short Trial, the parties are limited in the amount of time that they have to present their cases.  Therefore, Short Trials normally begin and end on the same day.

If I choose a Short Trial, will I spend less for attorney’s fees and costs?

Because Short Trials are only a day long, you won’t be paying your attorney for days and days in trial.  The rules of evidence are less onerous and records may be admitted without the need to lay the customary foundation.  In fact, at a regular trial, you would have to pay your experts to appear and testify.  At a Short Trial, expert reports can be relied on without the need to have the expert present.  That alone could save you thousands of dollars.

I understand that if I lose a conventional trial, I might have to pay the attorney’s fees and costs of the other side.  What are the possible downsides if I lose my Short Trial?

Like with a conventional trial, the prevailing party can be entitled to a separate award of attorney’s fees and costs.  But they are limited.  Attorney’s fees are limited to $3,000 and costs pursuant to statute but awards of expert witness fees are limited to $500. There are many caveats to the rules here and you’ll have to consult with your attorney.

What if I don’t like the result of the Short Trial, can I appeal?

While the parties do have the right to appeal the outcome of the Short Trial, the parties may stipulate that the results of the short trial are binding.

At Mills and Associates, we are skilled in trying cases in the Short Trial Program.  In addition, you are welcome to contact us to discuss the pros and cons of submitting a given case to the Short Trial Pogram.  On the plus side of the equation, even a cursory review of the monthly Trial Reporter shows that many defendants fare better with a jury in a Short Trial than with an arbitrator.   The decision to stipulate a case into the program is an important one and should not be entered into lightly.

About Michael Mills

Mr. Mills practices in the area of civil litigation and appeals, with particular experience in matters involving trucking liability, insurance defense, insurance coverage, premises liability, products liability and defense of personal injury. Mr. Mills is a member of the Trucking Insurance Defense Association, the Defense Research Institute Trucking Committee and the Nevada Motor Transport Association. Mr. Mills is licensed to practice before the Nevada Supreme Court and the Utah Supreme Court. He is also licensed to appear before the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Nevada and Utah, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Mills has created 3 Blogs for the benefit of the insurance industry. He serves as editor and publisher of the Nevada Insurance Law Blog, the Nevada Coverage and Bad Faith Blog and the Nevada Trucking Law Blog.

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