What You Need to Know About Indiana's Commercial Courts

by Michael Hartman

The Indiana Commercial Court Pilot Project has now been up and running for 3 months, joining the 22 other states that have specialized commercial courts. The pilot, which is not to exceed three years, began on June 1, 2016, and has since been implemented in six courts throughout the state of Indiana.

The aim of the Commercial Courts is to help resolve business disputes in a more efficient and consistent manner. Currently, individuals or businesses with the intent to try a commercial case in civil court have to deal with slow processes and judges that may not be business-minded or understand the concerns being raised.

More specifically, the purposes of the Commercial Courts are as follows:

  1. Establish judicial structures that will help all court users by improving court efficiency;
  2. Allow business and commercial disputes to be resolved with expertise, technology, and efficiency;
  3. Enhance the accuracy, consistency, and predictability of decisions in business and commercial cases;
  4. Enhance economic development in Indiana by furthering the efficient, predictable resolution of business and commercial law disputes;
  5. Employ and encourage electronic early alternative dispute resolution interventions, as consistent with Indiana law.

There are certain limitations and requirements placed on the types of cases eligible for the Commercial Court docket. Generally speaking, the case will be resolved in Commercial Court if it relates primarily to:

  1. The formation, governance, dissolution or liquidation of a business entity;
  2. The rights and obligations between or among the owners, shareholders, officers, etc.;
  3. Trade secret, non-disclosure, non-compete, or employment agreements;
  4. The rights, obligations, liability, or indemnity of an owner, shareholder, officer, etc. owed to or from the business entity;
  5. Disputes between or among two or more business entities or individuals as to their business activities relating to contracts, transactions, or relationships between or among them.
    (Indiana Commercial Court Handbook, p. 13)

While a longer list of cases that do not qualify to be heard in front of the Commercial Courts can be found in the Indiana Commercial Court Handbook, some examples include: personal injury, wrongful death, consumer claims against a business, workers’ compensation, or matters in eminent domain.

Furthermore, all parties in the lawsuit have to agree to have the case tried in the Commercial Courts; otherwise, they must go the conventional court route. The Commercial Courts were not created with the intention of funneling or forcing all future business cases to join the docket; rather, these courts should be looked at as a form of alternate dispute resolution.

All in all, the Commercial Courts should serve as a means to save both time and money for the parties involved. Judges with increased business procedural knowledge will not only be able to offer insights on how to resolve an issue, but will also work with less delay.  



Michael Hartman is an attorney at Gutwein Law. He is focused on general business litigation with an emphasis on real estate matters. Michael graduated cum laude from Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law, where he was Associate Editor of the Indiana Law Review.


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