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II.  Commencement of Action

Rule 3.4.      Preliminary Process

(a)  To initiate a civil action for monetary damages which is not filed as a small claim pursuant to RSA 503, the plaintiff files with the court: (i) the Complaint; (ii) an Appearance (indicating the plaintiff’s representative by name, address, email address, telephone number, and New Hampshire Bar Association identification number); and (iii) either the filing fee or a motion to waive the filing fee.  See Rule 1.28.  For purposes of complying with the statute of limitations or analogous time limit, an action shall be deemed commenced on the date the Complaint is filed.

(b)  Upon receipt of the Complaint and, if the filing fee is not waived, the filing fee, the court will process the action and provide plaintiff with the completed Summons for service.  The Summons will identify: (i) the date the Complaint is filed; (ii) the court-ordered deadline for service; and (iii) a hearing date, if appropriate.  Plaintiff will cause the Summons together with a copy of the Complaint to be served on defendant no later than the court-ordered deadline for service, service to be made as specified in RSA 510, or as otherwise allowed by law.  Proof of service shall be filed with the court within 21 days of the court-ordered deadline for service.  If a defendant is not served within the court-ordered deadline for service, the court shall dismiss the action with or without prejudice, as justice may require.

(c)  In all cases of notice by publication where the time may be fixed by the court, the order shall be for publication in some newspaper or newspapers named by the court in general or special orders, once a week for 3 successive weeks.  The last publication shall not be later than the time fixed by the court.

(d)  Appearances and Answers or other responsive pleadings are due within 30 days of the date the defendant is served with the Summons and Complaint.  See Rule 3.9. 

Rule 3.5.      Case Structuring Order

(a)  Within 20 days of the Answer date counsel, or parties if unrepresented, may confer to discuss the claims, defenses and counterclaims and to attempt to reach agreement on the following matters: (1) a proposed date for trial and the estimated length of trial; (2) dates for the disclosure of expert reports; (3) status of waiver of RSA 516:29-b requirements; (4) deadlines for the parties to propound interrogatories; (5) deadlines for the completion of all depositions; (6) deadlines for the completion of all discovery; (7) deadline for filing all dispositive motions, which shall not be less than 120 days prior to the trial date; (8) deadlines for filing all other pre-trial motions, which shall be filed not later than 14 days prior to trial; (9) the type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedures that shall be utilized and the deadline for completion of ADR; and (10) deadline for filing witness and exhibit lists, which shall not be later than the trial management conference.

(b)  If the parties reach agreement as to all information required by Rule 3.5(a) above, they may file a completed written stipulation setting forth their agreement on all of the required matters within the said 20 days.  Upon review by the court, if those stipulations are deemed acceptable, they shall become the case structuring order of the court.

(c)  If the parties are unable to reach agreement as to any of the matters set forth in Rule 3.5(a), do not confer and file a written stipulation or if the court rejects their proffered stipulations, the matter may be scheduled for a case structuring conference between the court and counsel, or parties if unrepresented.  The case structuring conference shall be held no later than 75 days after the Answer is filed.  The case structuring conference may be telephonic or the court may order the parties to appear in court for the hearing if the court deems this necessary for the efficient progression of the case.  Mediation may be offered to the parties on the day of the case structuring conference.  Should counsel, or parties if unrepresented, be unable to reach an acceptable agreement as to any of the required matters, the court may issue such orders as it deems appropriate including referral to mediation or other manner of alternative dispute resolution.  The fact that a structuring conference has not yet been held or a case structuring order has not yet been issued does not preclude any party from pursuing discovery and does not constitute grounds for any party to fail to comply with its discovery obligations.

(d)  Following the case structuring conference (if one is necessary), the court will issue a case structuring order.

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