An Overview of Michigan Case Evaluation and How it Impacts Your Civil Case
Michigan Case Evaluation Process Michigan has a procedure in place referred to as Case Evaluation. The Case Evaluation process is a standard requirement for most civil cases in Michigan where monetary damages are requested. It usually takes place at the end of discovery and before trial. As part of the Case Evaluation process, the attorneys in the case are required to meet with a panel of three attorneys appointed by the court to review the case, relevant facts and law, and hear the positions of the parties. The panel is comprised of one attorney who is primarily an advocate for the plaintiff attorney, one who is primarily an advocate for the defense, and a neutral. The process is brief, typically only lasting around 20 minutes. At the end of the Case Evaluation Hearing, the Panel will issue its evaluation of liability. There is no written opinion or explanation of the reasoning used to reach this dollar amount.
The Panel has the option of issuing a unanimous or non-unanimous liability award, which has significant impact on how the case proceeds. Whether the award is unanimous or not, both sides have 28 days to accept or reject the evaluation amount. If both sides accept the case evaluation amount the case would settle for that amount. If either side rejects the case continues.
Where an award was unanimous, the rejecting party may be held responsible for the opponent's costs and attorney fees from the date of case evaluation forward if they do not improve their position at trial by 10%. For example, assume the Panel rendered an award against you in the amount of $45,000. If you were to accept (which means you would pay $45,000) and the other party rejected and you later get the case dismissed or obtain a verdict at trial which is 10% below the Case Evaluation award (ten percent below $45,000 or $40,499), the adverse party could be required to reimburse your costs and attorney fees from the Evaluation Hearing forward. If you were to accept and the other party rejected, but that party obtained a verdict more than 10% of the case evaluation award ($49,501), neither party would be required to pay sanctions. But if you rejected and the adverse party obtained a verdict of $49,501 or more, you could be responsible for the opposing party's costs and attorney fees from the Hearing Date forward.
These potential "case evaluation sanctions" often put enough pressure on parties to settle the case for the case evaluation award. This is why it important to make a good showing in Case Evaluation and understanding how to best present to the Case Evaluation Panel.
This Overview is only a brief summary of the case evaluation process. Many considerations must be taken into account depending on your particular situation and case and nothing in this overview should be relied upon without first consulting your attorney.