Supreme Court Issues Temporary Amended Order on Civil Cases
April 26, 2020
On April 24, 2020, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia issues an order (Docket No. 20-Rules-04) which “temporarily amend[s] certain rules governing the conduct of civil litigation under the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure.” The Court finds “[a]ccess to the courts requires that parties have the ability to conduct proceedings in civil cases, including hearings, depositions and mediations, as long as such proceedings are conducted remotely and consistent with the consent requirements and authority of the judicial officer to determine the reasonableness of a party's refusal to consent, as contained in the Second Amended Order.”
While its prior judicial emergency orders, and the Rules of Civil Procedure and Trial Court Rules remain in effect unless expressly suspended or amended, this order focuses on allowing discovery, motions and hearings in civil cases to proceed while protecting litigants, counsel and court personnel. The order supplements the existing rules and allows:
- Circuit courts to hold hearings using remote technology;
- Circuit courts to hold remote scheduling conferences to review cases with trial dates within six months – counsel must contact court to schedule.
- Service of documents by email is expressly permitted;
- Motions to be filed and ruled upon with or without hearings;
- Discovery that can be reasonably performed in light of the COVID crisis to proceed. Counsel are directed to respond as fully as possible under the circumstances and to explain the inability to respond, including governmental restrictions. Discovery responses remain subject to later supplementation;
- Depositions can proceed if done remotely. Counsel must reach agreement before proceeding and if a motion opposing discovery is filed, the discovery cannot go forward until the court rules.
- Depositions of physicians and health care providers involved in COVID treatment are not permitted;
- Corporate representative depositions are not permitted unless the parties agree or the court issues an order based on a showing of good cause.
The order is in effect for 7 days pending receipt of and consideration of comments and supersedes any local administrative order entered by a judicial official.