NJ Rule Amendments for Civil Litigators Effective Sept. 1

The New Jersey Rules of Civil Procedure underwent recent amendments, which among other changes, affect the timeframe for Motions to Dismiss under Rule 4:6-2(e) and establish a process for filing Motions in Limine.

  • Rules 1:6-3 and R. 4:6-2 are revised to provide that Motions to Dismiss based on failure to state a claim (R. 4:6-2(e)) are now treated like Motions for Summary Judgment with a 28-day cycle, rather than the previous 16-day cycle. The Civil Practice Committee’s Report notes that the Conference of Civil Presiding Judges originally recommended this change, because these motions are often complex and routinely adjourned. Accordingly, motions pursuant to R. 4:6-2(e) shall be filed and served at least 28 days before the Motion’s specified return date. As with Summary Judgment Motions, opposition shall be filed and served 10 days before the return date.
  • Rule 4:25-8 has been added, setting forth detailed procedures and timeframes for Motions in Limine. The added rule was prompted by Cho v. Trinitas Reg’l Med. Ctr., 443 N.J. Super. 461 (App. Div. 2015), certif. denied, 224 N.J. 529 (2016), in which the Court held that it was impermissible for a party to serve an in limine motion on the eve of trial when the motion sought dismissal of the action. The Rule requires that in limine motions be filed as part of the R. 4:25-7(b) pre-trial exchange, with the exception of those particular circumstances that arise during the course of trial. The Rule requires that each motion embrace only one issue and limits in limine motions to five pages, exclusive of tables of contents and authorities. The newly added Rule does not change the requirement that responses to in limine motions be served on all parties no later than 2 days before trial. Reply briefs are prohibited. In matters where multiple in limine motions are filed, there is a collective 50 page limit for a party’s motions. Failure to submit in limine motions in accordance with the Rule may result in the motion not being decided unless good cause is shown for the non-compliance.

    Consistent with the Court’s ruling in Cho, and in an effort to encourage prompt resolution of admissibility questions, the Rule provides that motions which, if granted, would have a dispositive impact on a litigant’s case fall outside the purview of the rule and must be filed in accordance with the Summary Judgment Rule, 4:46-1. Examples provided in the Rule include motions to bar an expert’s testimony in a matter where such testimony is required as a matter of law to sustain a party’s burden of proof. Such motions will likely be considered out of time and not heard.

In addition to the above, the July 31, 2020 Omnibus Rule Amendment Order adds new language to Rule 4:21A-2 regarding the qualification, selection, assignment and compensation of arbitrators. The Rule now specifies that applicants for inclusion on the Court’s roster of arbitrators shall be either (1) retired judges of this State not on recall, (2) attorneys admitted to practice in this State having at least 10 years of consistent and extensive experience in New Jersey in any of the substantive areas of law subject to arbitration, or (3) Certified Civil Trial Attorneys who have completed the training and continuing education requirements set forth in R. 1:40-12(c).

Multiple Rules see revisions with regard to procedure, scope, and applicability as well as to address inconsistencies. Rule 4:24-2(b), which provides procedures to be followed regarding challenges to the credentials of experts in medical malpractice actions, has been amended to clarify that the motion procedures do not apply to affiants or other designated medical experts whose credentials have been the subject of the case management conference provided for in R. 4:5B-4. Likewise, Rule 4:59-1, which sets forth the process to enforce judgments or orders for the payment of money and process to collect costs, has been revised with regard to filing notices for application for wage execution in the Special Civil Part. The Rules for the Complex Business Litigation Program have also been amended to provide that upon removal of a case assigned to the Program, the matter will be reassigned to the appropriate track based on the case type designated in the Civil Case Information Statement, and removing the requirement that multiple copies of opposition papers filed in Summary Judgment motions be served on opposing counsel.

Finally, the Court has amended the Form Interrogatories. The Court has included a caution to counsel and parties that may receive the discovery responses that information provided in response to the Interrogatories shall not be used for improper purposes and shall be in accordance with the Rules of Court and Rules of Professional Conduct. In addition, while Form Interrogatories still require that plaintiffs provide their Social Security Numbers, the request in Form A(1) Interrogatory 1 that plaintiffs identify their place of birth has been removed, based in part on the Appellate Division’s decision in Serrano v. Underground Utils. Corp., 407 N.J. Super. 253 (App. Div. 2009), where the Court affirmed limitations on the discovery of immigration and residency status.

The Rule Amendments are effective September 1, 2020. The Court’s Order may be found here.

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