New York state courts are taking significant steps to return to the pre-coronavirus status quo, according to a report by Law360, although it’s still far from legal business as usual.

This week, judges and some staff returned to work at courthouses in 30 upstate counties in which Gov. Andrew Cuomo had eased commercial restrictions. Courts and county clerks’ offices in those areas also began accepting electronic filing of nonessential matters through the New York State Electronic Filing System (NYFCES).

Starting Monday (Memorial Day), electronic filing of “nonessential” matters through the NYFCES will likewise be allowed for the first time since the coronavirus-related shutdown in downstate counties that have yet to meet the medical benchmarks set for regional reopening. These include the five New York City counties as well as Nassau, Suffolk, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, UIster, and Westchester counties. In-person court activities in these hard-hit areas will continue to be limited.

The restoration of downstate e-filing is limited to cases in which all parties file all documents electronically. Litigants without legal representation, in contrast, are allowed to file, serve and be served by paper.

These allowances are a good sign for those who filing lawsuits about drug complications or faulty medical products. For these plaintiffs, NY court reopening steps could allow their cases to move forward.

Often in a faulty medical or defective drug lawsuit, time is of the essence. Moving as quickly as possible to preserve deposition testimony and collect evidence while it is still recent are vital to ensuring that all the facts are elicited in the trial. If a witness or plaintiff were to become unable to testify, perhaps due to COVID-19, or due to some other condition, then the respective side would be unduly inconvenienced through no fault of their own.