Two proposed changes to the Illinois Supreme Court Rules that are pending before the Chicago Bar Association Civil Practice Committee affect expert witness discovery. The affected rules are Illinois Supreme Court Rule 203 and Rule 213.
Illinois Supreme Court Rule 203
Illinois Supreme Court Rule 203 is titled, “Where Depositions May Be Taken.” Its current version was effective January 1, 1996. The rule currently reads, “Unless otherwise agreed, depositions shall be taken in the county in which the deponent resides or is employed or transacts business in person, or, in the case of a plaintiff-deponent, in the county in which the action is pending. However, the court, in its discretion, may order a party or a person who is currently an officer, director, or employee of a party to appear at a designated place in this State or elsewhere for the purpose of having the deposition taken. The order designating the place of a deposition may impose any terms and conditions that are just, including payment of reasonable expenses.”
The proposed changes to the rule would require a controlled expert witness to come to the county where the case is pending for the deposition. Under the new rule, an expert would be responsible for his or her expenses, which would then get passed on to the party. This rule would apply whether the deposition was for the purposes of discovery or evidence.
Opponents to the proposed change argue that this would impose burdens on parties that they may not be able to bear, by requiring them to pay travel fees for their chosen expert witnesses. The opponents note that the proposed rule shifts the costs of expert travel to benefit the deposing party. They argue that the cost of an in-person deposition should be borne by the party who requests that deposition. The new rule would also remove the option that currently exists to have the expert travel to the county where the case is pending because it is cheaper to pay to have the witness travel than the lawyers.
Illinois Supreme Court Rule 213
Illinois Supreme Court Rule 213 deals with “Written Interrogatories to Parties.” Its current version was amended December 29, 2017 and effective January 1, 2018. In pertinent part, Rule 213(f) requires parties to disclose, for independent expert witnesses, “the subjects on which the witness will testify and the opinions the party expects to elicit,” and for controlled expert witnesses, “(i) the subject matter on which the witness will testify; (ii) the conclusions and opinions of the witness and the bases therefor; (iii) the qualifications of the witness; and (iv) any reports prepared by the witness about the case.”
The proposed change to this rule would exempt from disclosure all draft expert reports, draft expert disclosures, and communications with the expert except for those related to the fee agreement, billing and payment. This proposed change aims to bring Illinois more in line with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Opponents to the proposed rule argue that the proposed rule change should fail because without enacting the federal rules as a whole, adopting a portion of them does a poor job of balancing privilege with discovery. As Donald P. Eckler, legislative chair of the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel, wrote of the proposed rule change, “This proposal would place an obstacle to the search for the truth and harm civil justice in Illinois.”