Where You Can Sue Matters As Much As Who You Sue
When you are injured in an accident you likely have given thought over who to sue. Sometimes the question is who to sue, and sometimes it’s how many people or entities may be liable for your injuries. But one thing you may not give thought to: where to sue, or more appropriately, where are you legally allowed to sue?
In certain kinds of cases, this isn’t such an easy question.
The location where your case can be heard can be limited by contracts. In many cases, you may not even realize that you sign contracts that limit the location where the other side can be sued. This is very common in, for example, cruise contracts, but happens in many other kinds of contracts.
There is another obstacle to where you can sue someone: jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is a court’s legal ability to hear a case. To sue a Defendant in Florida, that Defendant has to have what’s known as minimum contacts with the state of Florida. It has to be reasonably foreseeable, from the Defendant’s standpoint, that it can be sued in the State of Florida.
In most cases. This is an easy analysis. If you get into a car accident with someone, or shop in their store, they obviously have contact with Florida. But other times, the analysis is not so easy.
Let’s say, for example, that the airbag in your car deploys prematurely, injuring you. Can you sue the maker of the airbag? Or even the maker of the individual part inside the airbag that may have been defective? You may not be able to sue them here in Florida, if the part was made in another state or even another country.
In many cases, especially product liability cases, the manufacturer or maker of a part will say that it never knew its product would be sold or used in Florida.
Imagine that someone sells an ATV made in Tennessee to a neighbor. The neighbor takes the ATV to Florida, where it explodes, injuring others. The maker may say that the ATV was never intended to go to, be sold in, or to be used in Florida, and hence, that the manufacturer cannot be sued in Florida.
Companies that advertise locally, or put products on the internet, can reasonably assume their products will make their way to Florida (or any state), and thus, that they could potentially be sued here in Florida. A company that just makes small items, and sells them locally in another state, may have no idea that their product could end up in Florida.
Challenges to jurisdiction are rare, but they do happen. When they do, they can impact your ability to file a lawsuit in the court that you want to file it in. Your lawyer will often know before you file your case, where your lawsuit can legally be filed.
Call the West Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at Pike & Lustig today for questions about who you can sue for compensation for your injuries, and what you can expect in your personal injury case.