Rule 2.403 Case Evaluation

(A) Scope and Applicability of Rule.

(1) A court may submit to case evaluation any civil action in which the relief sought is primarily money damages or division of property.

(2) Case evaluation of tort cases filed in circuit court is mandatory beginning with actions filed after the effective dates of Chapters 49 and 49A of the Revised Judicature Act, as added by 1986 PA 178.

(3) A court may exempt claims seeking equitable relief from case evaluation for good cause shown on motion or by stipulation of the parties if the court finds that case evaluation of such claims would be inappropriate.

(4) Cases filed in district court may be submitted to case evaluation under this rule. The time periods set forth in subrules (B)(1), (G)(1), (L)(1) and (L)(2) may be shortened at the discretion of the district judge to whom the case is assigned.

(B) Selection of Cases.

(1) The judge to whom an action is assigned or the chief judge may select it for case evaluation by written order after the filing of the answer

(a) on written stipulation by the parties,

(b) on written motion by a party, or

(c) on the judge's own initiative.

(2) Selection of an action for case evaluation has no effect on the normal progress of the action toward trial.

(C) Objections to Case Evaluation.

(1) To object to case evaluation, a party must file a written motion to remove from case evaluation and a notice of hearing of the motion and serve a copy on the attorneys of record and the ADR clerk within 14 days after notice of the order assigning the action to case evaluation. The motion must be set for hearing within 14 days after it is filed, unless the court orders otherwise.

(2) A timely motion must be heard before the case is submitted to case evaluation.

(D) Case Evaluation Panel.

(1) Case evaluation panels shall be composed of 3 persons.

(2) The procedure for selecting case evaluation panels is as provided in MCR 2.404.

(3) A judge may be selected as a member of a case evaluation panel, but may not preside at the trial of any action in which he or she served as a case evaluator.

(4) A case evaluator may not be called as a witness at trial.

(E) Disqualification of Case Evaluators. The rule for disqualification of a case evaluator is the same as that provided in MCR 2.003 for the disqualification of a judge.

(F) ADR Clerk. The court shall designate the ADR clerk specified under MCR 2.410, or some other person, to administer the case evaluation program. In this rule and MCR 2.404, “ADR clerk” refers to the person so designated.

(G) Scheduling Case Evaluation Hearing.

(1) The ADR clerk shall set a time and place for the hearing and send notice to the case evaluators and the attorneys at least 42 days before the date set.

(2) Adjournments may be granted only for good cause, in accordance with MCR 2.503.

(H) Fees.

(1) Each party must send a check for $75 made payable in the manner and within the time specified in the notice of the case evaluation hearing. However, if a judge is a member of the panel, the fee is $50. If the order for case evaluation directs that payment be made to the ADR clerk, the ADR clerk shall arrange payment to the case evaluators. Except by stipulation and court order, the parties may not make any other payment of fees or expenses to the case evaluators than that provided in this subrule.

(2) Only a single fee is required of each party, even where there are counterclaims, cross-claims, or third-party claims. A person entitled to a fee waiver under MCR 2.002 is entitled to a waiver of fees under this rule.

(3) If one claim is derivative of another (e.g., husband-wife, parent-child) they must be treated as a single claim, with one fee to be paid and a single award made by the case evaluators.

(4) Fees paid pursuant to subrule (H) shall be refunded to the parties if

(a) the court sets aside the order submitting the case to case evaluation or on its own initiative adjourns the case evaluation hearing, or

(b) the parties notify the ADR clerk in writing at least 14 days before the case evaluation hearing of the settlement, dismissal, or entry of judgment disposing of the action, or of an order of adjournment on stipulation or the motion of a party.

If case evaluation is rescheduled at a later time, the fee provisions of subrule (H) apply regardless of whether previously paid fees have been refunded.

   (5) Fees paid pursuant to subrule (H) shall not be refunded to the parties if

      (a) in the case of an adjournment, the adjournment order sets a new date for case evaluation and the fees are applied to the new date, or

      (b) the request for and granting of adjournment is made within 14 days of the scheduled case evaluation, unless waived for good cause.

   Penalties for late filing of papers under subrule (I)(2) are not to be refunded.

(I) Submission of Summary and Supporting Documents.

(1) Unless otherwise provided in the notice of hearing, at least 14 days before the hearing, each party shall

   (a) serve a copy of the case evaluation summary and supporting documents in accordance with MCR 2.107, and

   (b) file a proof of service and three copies of a case evaluation summary and supporting documents with the ADR clerk.

(2) Each failure to timely file and serve the materials identified in subrule (1) and each subsequent filing of supplemental materials within 14 days of the hearing, subjects the offending attorney or party to a $150 penalty to be paid in the manner specified in the notice of the case evaluation hearing. An offending attorney shall not charge the penalty to the client, unless the client agreed in writing to be responsible for the penalty.

(3) The case evaluation summary shall consist of a concise summary setting forth that party’s factual and legal position on issues presented by the action. Except as permitted by the court, the summary shall not exceed 20 pages double spaced, exclusive of attachments. Quotations and footnotes may be single spaced. At least one inch margins must be used, and printing shall not be smaller than 12-point font.

(J) Conduct of Hearing.

(1) A party has the right, but is not required, to attend a case evaluation hearing. If scars, disfigurement, or other unusual conditions exist, they may be demonstrated to the panel by a personal appearance; however, no testimony will be taken or permitted of any party.

(2) The rules of evidence do not apply before the case evaluation panel. Factual information having a bearing on damages or liability must be supported by documentary evidence, if possible.

(3) Oral presentation shall be limited to 15 minutes per side unless multiple parties or unusual circumstances warrant additional time. Information on settlement negotiations not protected under MCR 2.412 and applicable insurance policy limits shall be disclosed at the request of the case evaluation panel.

(4) Statements by the attorneys and the briefs or summaries are not admissible in any court or evidentiary proceeding.

(5) Counsel or the parties may not engage in ex parte communications with the case evaluators concerning the action prior to the hearing. After the evaluation, the case evaluators need not respond to inquiries by the parties or counsel regarding the proceeding or the evaluation.

(K) Decision.

(1) Within 14 days after the hearing, the panel will make an evaluation and notify the attorney for each party of its evaluation in writing. If an award is not unanimous, the evaluation must so indicate.

(2) Except as provided in subrule (H)(3), the evaluation must include a separate award as to each plaintiff's claim against each defendant and as to each cross-claim, counterclaim, or third-party claim that has been filed in the action. For the purpose of this subrule, all such claims filed by any one party against any other party shall be treated as a single claim.

(3) The evaluation may not include a separate award on any claim for equitable relief, but the panel may consider such claims in determining the amount of an award.

(4) In a tort case to which MCL 600.4915(2) or MCL 600.4963(2) applies, if the panel unanimously finds that a party's action or defense as to any other party is frivolous, the panel shall so indicate on the evaluation. For the purpose of this rule, an action or defense is “frivolous” if, as to all of a plaintiff's claims or all of a defendant's defenses to liability, at least 1 of the following conditions is met:

(a) The party's primary purpose in initiating the action or asserting the defense was to harass, embarrass, or injure the opposing party.

(b) The party had no reasonable basis to believe that the facts underlying that party's legal position were in fact true.

(c) The party's legal position was devoid of arguable legal merit.

(5) In an action alleging medical malpractice to which MCL 600.4915 applies, the evaluation must include a specific finding that

(a) there has been a breach of the applicable standard of care,

(b) there has not been a breach of the applicable standard of care, or

(c) reasonable minds could differ as to whether there has been a breach of the applicable standard of care.

(L) Acceptance or Rejection of Evaluation.

(1) Each party shall file a written acceptance or rejection of the panel's evaluation with the ADR clerk within 28 days after service of the panel's evaluation. Even if there are separate awards on multiple claims, the party must either accept or reject the evaluation in its entirety as to a particular opposing party. The failure to file a written acceptance or rejection within 28 days constitutes rejection.

(2) There may be no disclosure of a party's acceptance or rejection of the panel's evaluation until the expiration of the 28-day period, at which time the ADR clerk shall send a notice indicating each party's acceptance or rejection of the panel's evaluation.

(3) In case evaluations involving multiple parties the following rules apply:

(a) Each party has the option of accepting all of the awards covering the claims by or against that party or of accepting some and rejecting others. However, as to any particular opposing party, the party must either accept or reject the evaluation in its entirety.

(b) A party who accepts all of the awards may specifically indicate that he or she intends the acceptance to be effective only if

(i) all opposing parties accept, and/or

(ii) the opposing parties accept as to specified coparties.

If such a limitation is not included in the acceptance, an accepting party is deemed to have agreed to entry of judgment, or dismissal as provided in subrule (M)(1), as to that party and those of the opposing parties who accept, with the action to continue between the accepting party and those opposing parties who reject.

(c) If a party makes a limited acceptance under subrule (L)(3)(b) and some of the opposing parties accept and others reject, for the purposes of the cost provisions of subrule (O) the party who made the limited acceptance is deemed to have rejected as to those opposing parties who accept.

(M) Effect of Acceptance of Evaluation.

(1) If all the parties accept the panel's evaluation, judgment will be entered in accordance with the evaluation, unless the amount of the award is paid within 28 days after notification of the acceptances, in which case the court shall dismiss the action with prejudice. The judgment or dismissal shall be deemed to dispose of all claims in the action and includes all fees, costs, and interest to the date it is entered, except for cases involving rights to personal protection insurance benefits under MCL 500.3101 et seq., for which judgment or dismissal shall not be deemed to dispose of claims that have not accrued as of the date of the case evaluation hearing.

(2) If only a part of an action has been submitted to case evaluation pursuant to subrule (A)(3) and all of the parties accept the panel’s evaluation, the court shall enter an order disposing of only those claims.

(3)In a case involving multiple parties, judgment, or dismissal as provided in subrule (1), shall be entered as to those opposing parties who have accepted the portions of the evaluation that apply to them.

(N) Proceedings After Rejection.

(1) If all or part of the evaluation of the case evaluation panel is rejected, the action proceeds to trial in the normal fashion.

(2) If a party's claim or defense was found to be frivolous under subrule (K)(4), that party may request that the court review the panel's finding by filing a motion within 14 days after the ADR clerk sends notice of the rejection of the case evaluation award.

(a) The motion shall be submitted to the court on the case evaluation summaries and documents that were considered by the case evaluation panel. No other exhibits or testimony may be submitted. However, oral argument on the motion shall be permitted.

(b) After reviewing the materials submitted, the court shall determine whether the action or defense is frivolous.

(c) If the court agrees with the panel's determination, the provisions of subrule (N)(3) apply, except that the bond must be filed within 28 days after the entry of the court's order determining the action or defense to be frivolous.

(d) The judge who hears a motion under this subrule may not preside at a nonjury trial of the action.

(3) Except as provided in subrule (2), if a party's claim or defense was found to be frivolous under subrule (K)(4), that party shall post a cash or surety bond, pursuant to MCR 3.604, in the amount of $5,000 for each party against whom the action or defense was determined to be frivolous.

(a) The bond must be posted within 56 days after the case evaluation hearing or at least 14 days before trial, whichever is earlier.

(b) If a surety bond is filed, an insurance company that insures the defendant against a claim made in the action may not act as the surety.

(c) If the bond is not posted as required by this rule, the court shall dismiss a claim found to have been frivolous, and enter the default of a defendant whose defense was found to be frivolous. The action shall proceed to trial as to the remaining claims and parties, and as to the amount of damages against a defendant in default.

(d) If judgment is entered against the party who posted the bond, the bond shall be used to pay any costs awarded against that party by the court under any applicable law or court rule. MCR 3.604 applies to proceedings to enforce the bond.

(4) The ADR clerk shall place a copy of the case evaluation and the parties' acceptances and rejections in a sealed envelope for filing with the clerk of the court. In a nonjury action, the envelope may not be opened and the parties may not reveal the amount of the evaluation until the judge has rendered judgment.

(O) Rejecting Party's Liability for Costs.

(1) If a party has rejected an evaluation and the action proceeds to verdict, that party must pay the opposing party's actual costs unless the verdict is more favorable to the rejecting party than the case evaluation. However, if the opposing party has also rejected the evaluation, a party is entitled to costs only if the verdict is more favorable to that party than the case evaluation.

(2) For the purpose of this rule “verdict” includes,

(a) a jury verdict,

(b) a judgment by the court after a nonjury trial,

(c) a judgment entered as a result of a ruling on a motion after rejection of the case evaluation.

(3) For the purpose of subrule (O)(1), a verdict must be adjusted by adding to it assessable costs and interest on the amount of the verdict from the filing of the complaint to the date of the case evaluation, and, if applicable, by making the adjustment of future damages as provided by MCL 600.6306. After this adjustment, the verdict is considered more favorable to a defendant if it is more than 10 percent below the evaluation, and is considered more favorable to the plaintiff if it is more than 10 percent above the evaluation. If the evaluation was zero, a verdict finding that a defendant is not liable to the plaintiff shall be deemed more favorable to the defendant.

(4) In cases involving multiple parties, the following rules apply:

(a) Except as provided in subrule (O)(4)(b), in determining whether the verdict is more favorable to a party than the case evaluation, the court shall consider only the amount of the evaluation and verdict as to the particular pair of parties, rather than the aggregate evaluation or verdict as to all parties. However, costs may not be imposed on a plaintiff who obtains an aggregate verdict more favorable to the plaintiff than the aggregate evaluation.

(b) If the verdict against more than one defendant is based on their joint and several liability, the plaintiff may not recover costs unless the verdict is more favorable to the plaintiff than the total case evaluation as to those defendants, and a defendant may not recover costs unless the verdict is more favorable to that defendant than the case evaluation as to that defendant.

(c) Except as provided by subrule (O)(10), in a personal injury action, for the purpose of subrule (O)(1), the verdict against a particular defendant shall not be adjusted by applying that defendant's proportion of fault as determined under MCL 600.6304(1)-(2).

(5) If the verdict awards equitable relief, costs may be awarded if the court determines that

(a) taking into account both monetary relief (adjusted as provided in subrule [O][3]) and equitable relief, the verdict is not more favorable to the rejecting party than the evaluation, or, in situations where both parties have rejected the evaluation, the verdict in favor of the party seeking costs is more favorable than the case evaluation, and

(b) it is fair to award costs under all of the circumstances.

(6) For the purpose of this rule, actual costs are

(a) those costs taxable in any civil action, and

(b) a reasonable attorney fee based on a reasonable hourly or daily rate as determined by the trial judge for services necessitated by the rejection of the case evaluation, which may include legal services provided by attorneys representing themselves or the entity for whom they work, including the time and labor of any legal assistant as defined by MCR2.626.

For the purpose of determining taxable costs under this subrule and under MCR 2.625, the party entitled to recover actual costs under this rule shall be considered the prevailing party.

(7) Costs shall not be awarded if the case evaluation award was not unanimous. If case evaluation results in a nonunanimous award, a case may be ordered to a subsequent case evaluation hearing conducted without reference to the prior case evaluation award, or other alternative dispute resolution processes, at the expense of the parties, pursuant to MCR 2.410(C)(1).

(8) A request for costs under this subrule must be filed and served within 28 days after the entry of the judgment or entry of an order denying a timely motion

   (i) for a new trial,

   (ii) to set aside the judgment, or

   (iii) for rehearing or reconsideration.

(9) In an action under MCL 436.1801, if the plaintiff rejects the award against the minor or alleged intoxicated person, or is deemed to have rejected such an award under subrule (L)(3)(c), the court shall not award costs against the plaintiff in favor of the minor or alleged intoxicated person unless it finds that the rejection was not motivated by the need to comply with MCL 436.1801(5).

(10) For the purpose of subrule (O)(1), in an action filed on or after March 28, 1996, and based on tort or another legal theory seeking damages for personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death, a verdict awarding damages shall be adjusted for relative fault as provided by MCL 600.6304.

(11) If the “verdict” is the result of a motion as provided by subrule (O)(2)(c), the court may, in the interest of justice, refuse to award actual costs.