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The Geography of a Lawsuit Part 2: Venue Law

The U.S. court system is a patchwork of many different courts covering different geographic areas. Figuring out which of these different courts is the right one to file a lawsuit in can be of major importance to a case. It can change what law applies. It can alter the types of people who are going to be on a jury. It can even have serious impact on the costs involved in the lawsuit because of the potential burden of travel time.

In order to limit the amount of people choosing obscure or distant courts in the hopes of improving their business litigation cases, the law has two separate doctrines to deal with what courts are available to what people: personal jurisdiction, governing which courts have power over which people and companies, and venue, governing which courts would be most appropriate to file in. The last part of this post discussed personal jurisdiction, so this one will move onto venue.

Possible Proper Venues

Federal venue law places limitations on the courts in which people can bring lawsuits by creating two allowable categories. First, a person can bring a lawsuit in any judicial district where the defendant resides, but only if all the defendants live in the same state. For instance, Florida has three judicial districts: Northern, Middle, and Southern. If an Alabama company wanted to sue two Florida companies, one in the Northern district and one in the Middle district, either of those districts would be appropriate. Second, a person may bring a lawsuit in any district where a “substantial part” of the events or property that caused the lawsuit is located in. Federal law also creates a backup policy that allows people to bring a lawsuit in any district where any defendant is subject to that court’s personal jurisdiction, but only if there are no courts that fall into the first categories.

One odd thing about these rules is that they seem to be written to favor defendants. Two of the three categories are focused on ensuring that the court is somewhere where the defendant is reasonably close by, or at least close enough that having them litigate there would not be unfair. In reality, this is just an attempt to level the playing field. Plaintiffs are ordinarily the ones who get to choose the venue since they bring the lawsuit. These rules are designed to ensure that the venues that they get to choose from are not too inconvenient for the defendant.

Changing Venues

Of course, sometimes the rules do not fully manage to prevent the plaintiff from bringing a lawsuit somewhere inconvenient for the defendant. This is especially common in litigation between companies, which can often be subject to lawsuits far from their main headquarters. When this happens, parties do have the ability to request that the court transfer them to a more convenient venue that the plaintiff could have originally chosen to file in.

These geographic provisions can have a major impact on the outcome of a case. If you are currently involved in a business dispute and want more information about the way geography can help you win your case, contact a Florida business litigation attorney today. The attorneys at Pike & Lustig, LLP are prepared to help you today.

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