It has been suggested that West Virginia should set up a special type of court system to deal with lawsuits involving businesses. The idea is appealing, and Mountain State officials will need to look no further than Ohio to see how it works.
Beginning next year, two judges in each of five very populous counties in Ohio will become specialists in business cases. Their courts will exist as business-only venues for four years, during a pilot program authorized by the General Assembly. After legislators have evaluated the trial run, they can decide whether to make the system permanent.
Business-only courts would deal solely with disputes among companies and involving commercial issues such as patent infringement, insurance disputes, etc. Such matters can be quite complex, and that is one reason why specialty courts have been suggested. Their judges could be educated more intensively in business law and, by handling it exclusively, would develop more expertise than is available from all-purpose courts. Another advantage of business-only courts is that they can speed up litigation and other resolution of disputes.
There is a big difference between Ohio and West Virginia, of course. The Buckeye State has far more business-to-business litigation than is handled in our state. It is unlikely that any Mountain State system of business courts would be as extensive as that needed in Ohio.
Still, the Ohio experiment should give West Virginia officials a substantial amount of information about how business courts could work - and whether they are beneficial or merely one more bureaucratic layer in the court system.
We encourage West Virginia officials, then, to pay close attention to the Ohio pilot program. If it seems to be helpful, a pilot program should be set up here.