CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Businesses will have a new arena to settle legal disputes in West Virginia next month.
On Oct. 10, the state Supreme Court plans to open a business court designed to handle complex and technical issues that come up in commercial litigation cases.
"This provides a way for circuit court judges to be relieved from the burden of handling those novel or complex issues," said Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis during a press conference at the state Capitol Tuesday. "It also should provide a more expeditious and judicious resolution of disputes for business litigants."
The business court won't handle consumer lawsuits, and products liability, personal injury, wrongful death cases.
Instead, the court will take up contract and shareholder disputes, and trade secrets and securities cases.
"Generally, disputes must be between businesses" to qualify for the business court, Davis said.
The court's chief justice will be able to refer cases to the business court division. Circuit judges and both parties in a lawsuit also may file mot ions to refer cases to the new business court division.
Judges will "make all reasonable efforts" to conclude business court cases within 10 months, according to new trial court rules.
Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes of Berkeley County will serve as chairman of the new business court. Circuit judges James Rowe of Greenbrier County and Donald Cookman of Pendleton County also will serve on the court, starting Oct. 10. Circuit Judge James Young on Wayne County will take a seat on the new court Jan. 1.
The judges will serve on the business court with no additional pay, Davis said. All are Democrats except Wilkes, who is a Republican.
Wilkes, Rowe and Cookman served on a committee that has studied the business court proposal since June 2011.