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The Journal Gazette

Monday, February 26, 2018 12:30 pm

Pilot 'commercial court' project praised in report

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A two-year-old pilot project designed to fast-track business cases through state courts is working and should be continued, a report released Monday says.

The Indiana Supreme Court issued an order creating the project – which includes Allen County – in January 2016, and judges began accepting cases about six months later. Through December, 44 of 215 Commercial Court cases were filed locally.

The project also includes Marion, Lake, Vanderburgh, Elkhart and Floyd counties.

Allen Superior Judge Craig Bobay, one of six Commercial Court judges, said in the report to state Supreme Court justices the project has been cited "as a factor in Indiana's reputation as a great place to locate and grow business."

"As the Commercial Courts continue to gain momentum, and as the benefits of specialization in this type of litigation become more well-known, we expect the business entities involved will also become more aware of the process and availability of expediting their cases via participation," Bobay said.

The courts were created to handle complex business litigation efficiently, officials have said. They also contribute to economic development efforts by resolving commercial law disputes, according to the report.

Indiana's rank from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce among states' court systems for business litigants recently rose to 15th from 18th, the report says.

"I've heard positive feedback from our members about having these courts available to move these more complex business cases forward to a resolution," Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said in a statement.

Most Commercial Court cases – 85 percent – involved breach of contract, and 60 percent of filings were in Marion County. Other cases involved fraud, conversion/theft, issues involving contracts and "tortious interference," which happens when someone interferes with another person's contractual or business relationship.

Eighty-five cases filed between June 2016 and Dec. 1, 2017, were closed, the report says.

In Allen County, cases included non-payment for construction services, a non-competition clause, an alleged violation of restrictive covenants, rent past due on a commercial lease and several breaches of contracts.

A final report on the pilot project is slated for September.