On Friday, March 27, 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued an omnibus order addressing the suspension of court proceedings, extension of deadlines and tolling time periods (including the time to file Notices of Tort Claims). The Court had been issuing almost daily orders but this order addressed the extension of those time periods based upon the current restrictions on movement and activity recommended by NJ DOH and CDC, as well as the Governor’s Order 107. The major effect of this order is to continue the stay of all jury trials, restart arbitration hearings on a virtual basis on April 27, 2020, require depositions to be conducted on a virtual basis, extend discovery deadlines for 6 weeks from March 16, 2020 to April 26, 2020, and toll the statute of limitations during this 6 week time period as well.
Per this Order, the Court placed into effect and/or renewed the following provision:
- No new civil jury trials will be conducted until further notice.
- Time for completion of discovery and time for filing motions for summary judgment are relaxed to permit the extension of discovery deadlines through April 26, 2020.
- Time for issuance of summons is extended from 15 days to within 60 days of the Track Assignment Notice for notices issued from March 16 through April 26, 2020.
- Time frame for service of valid and timely Notices of Tort Claim will be tolled from March 16 through April 26, 2020.
- Time periods for discovery (including interrogatories, inspection of documents and property, IMEs, and requests for admission) will be extended from March 16 through April 26, 2020.
- In computation of time for discovery end dates, the period of March 16 through April 26, 2020 shall be excluded due to exceptional circumstances.
- Special Civil Part and Small Claims trial calendars are suspended through April 26, 2020.
- The requirement to submit courtesy copies of motion papers, not exceeding 35 pages, to the trial court judge is suspended.
- Civil arbitrations scheduled from March 16 to April 26, 2020 have or will be postponed and rescheduled.
- Effective April 27, 2020, Civil Arbitrations will resume with participation in any session to be via video and/or telephone conference and initiated by an arbitrator or panelist.
- The arbitration rules are relaxed to permit an extension of timeframes and authorize arbitration hearings to be conducted in a location other than the courthouse.
- Through April 26, 2020, depositions should be conducted remotely using necessary and available video technology and court reporters may administer and accept oaths remotely.
- To the extent practicable, all court matters including hearings, conferences, and arguments will be conducted by video or phone conferencing and in-person appearances will be permitted only in emergent situations.
- All depositions and appearances for any doctors, nurses, or healthcare professionals involved in responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency are suspended through April 26, 2020 unless requested by the health profession or that are for matters related to COVID-19.
- For computation of time periods under the Rules of Court and under any statute of limitations for matters in all courts, for purposes of filing deadlines, the additional time of March 28 through April 26, 2020 shall be deemed the same as a legal holiday. (The Court previously designated the time period of March 16, 2020 to March 27, 2020 to constitute a legal holiday.)
- Electronic signatures are now permitted on all original filings temporarily during this crisis.