HURRICANE IKE UPDATE: MONTGOMERY COUNTY DISTRICT COURT JUDGE ORDERS ABATEMENT, MASS MEDIATION & ROCKET DOCKET IN ALL HURRICANE IKE CASES PENDING IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY
Montgomery County District Court Judge Fred Edwards held a status conference on October 28, 2011 regarding all Hurricane Ike cases pending in Montgomery County. Judge Edwards announced the abatement of all Hurricane Ike cases to be followed by a mass mediation of all cases beginning on December 15, 2011. Mediation will apparently be mandatory for all Hurricane Ike cases except those in which mediation has already occurred and failed. For those that have attempted mediation, the parties will have the option of participating in the mass mediation or continuing to trial. Judge Edwards announced he will try all of the hurricane cases in Montgomery County, regardless of whether the cases originated in his court or were transferred to his court from another.
As to the mass mediation, Judge Edwards appointed Jack Stibbs of Spring to serve as the Master Mediator. Judge Edwards will appoint additional mediators in the upcoming weeks and will create a list of court-approved mediators. The mediator and counsel will determine the location of each mediation. Judge Edwards also suggested that the time allowed for mediation should be proportionate to the amount in controversy and discussed mediator compensation. In order to reduce the exchange of paperwork, the court will create a “Master Drop Box” which will allow all mediators to access pleadings, expert reports, etc. relevant to each case. For all cases that do not resolve at mediation, docket control orders will be entered immediately with trial set within three months, if possible. Judge Edwards noted that parties may opt-out of the mass mediation process; however, trial will be set within three months upon opt out.
Judge Edwards announced he will adopt Master Discovery similar to those already adopted by courts in Harris and Galveston counties. All parties will be directed to issue the Master Discovery requests in cases where discovery has not begun. He further announced his intention of issuing a Standing Protective Order to protect information shared for trial purposes. Judge Edwards will hold another conference prior to December 15, 2011 (date TBA) with further updates regarding the Hurricane Ike docket. Judge Edwards said he would be posting orders on line but, as of press time, no orders had been posted. We will continue to update all developments in Montgomery County. For more information regarding Judge Edwards’ status conference, please contact any member of the MDJW Insurance Team.