Human tendency is to want immediately everything that can be obtained immediately. We like one hour photo-labs, microwave ovens, overnight mail, same day dry cleaning, and fast food. Well, as proof that the wheels of justice don’t always turn slowly, our beloved court system has developed the summary jury trial also referred to as the “SJT.” An SJT is an alternative dispute resolution technique that has been around for years but is now gaining increasing use around the country and certainly in New York. It is a break from the regular trial system and can afford a litigant several benefits.
The particular technique of which I have had personal involvement has been the “Binding SJT” in which the parties try the case to a binding verdict rather than simply engaging in a non binding mock trial. The binding SJT’s are generally one or two days in length. The parties stipulate as a prerequisite that each litigant will be bound by the jury’s verdict. The right to move to set aside the verdict may be waived or strictly limited to instances where, for example, fraud was used to obtain the verdict, or there is an error of law that occurred during the trial, or a miscalculation of figures occurred.
The first day of the trial is generally used as an evidentiary hearing for purposes of determining which documents and witnesses the jury will learn about and/or hear from during then trial. Related medical treatment records as well as the plaintiff’s and defendant’s expert medical reports are usually stipulated to be admissible. This generally saves money for the both the plaintiffs and defendants. Day two consists of jury selection and the trial. The presentation of evidence and arguments made by the attorneys are governed by strictly enforced time limits to ensure that the entire case is presented and the jury gets the case the same day for deliberation.