COVID-19 has slowed down many pending court cases, with trial dates being pushed out indefinitely as the pandemic worsens.
Despite these slowdowns, the Vermont Supreme Court recently made clear that court deadlines remain in effect and that COVID-19 alone will not excuse a party who ignores its deadlines.
In Clodgo v. Green Mountain Transit, 2020-157 (Dec. 4, 2020), the court affirmed the dismissal of a case based on plaintiff’s failure to respond to a motion to dismiss by the deadline. The plaintiff argued that her failure to respond in a timely manner was caused by the closure of her attorney’s offices due to COVID-19. The court rejected this argument. Although the court recognized that attorney’s offices had been ordered closed under Governor Scott’s COVID-19 orders, the court concluded that “no executive order or administrative order suspended court filings or litigants’ obligations under court filing deadlines.”
Attorneys and parties alike should take note of the court’s decision. A judge may not accept the current pandemic alone as an excuse for missing deadlines. While some courts have been flexible as parties and attorneys adjust to the new remote-work environment, Clodgo makes clear that court deadlines remain in effect even in a global pandemic.