Determination of jurisdiction and venue are important considerations in any personal injury lawsuit. It’s not always a straightforward issue, particularly if litigants are from different states or there is a question of federal law.
For the most part, injury lawsuits stemming from car accidents and truck accidents are going to fall under the purview of state courts. However, a court has to have personal and/or subject matter jurisdiction before it can hear a case. That means either the defendant resides in that district or it is the judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions that gave rise to the claim occurred.
If a lawsuit is filed in the wrong venue, the court will likely dismiss the case without prejudice, meaning you can file again. Sometimes, the court will transfer the case to the proper district, but only if it’s “in the interest of justice.” However, if the case is dismissed, the time spent in the wrong court consumes valuable time that could count against you in terms of the statute of limitations on your case.
That’s why it’s so important to hire an experienced Montgomery injury lawyer who is familiar with both state and federal courts in Alabama, and knows well how to properly ascertain jurisdiction before a case is ever filed.
The recent case of Nuckols v. Stevens et al., before the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Alabama, Northern Division, is a good example of how improper jurisdiction can affect a case.
Here, plaintiff is a resident of Alabama who sued two individuals for injuries she sustained near a surf shop parking lot in Florida. Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle attempting to turn right into the parking lot. One of the defendants was operating another vehicle in the same lane, but failed to stop the car and properly yield. The vehicle in which plaintiff sat was rear-ended, and plaintiff suffered back and neck injuries. The second defendant was owner of the vehicle.
Plaintiff filed lawsuit in federal court, seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $75,000.
Plaintiff likely has a strong case against defendants, but the problem was, she provided no evidence to support that venue was proper in Alabama federal court. Defendants did not waive an improper venue motion.
When pressed by the court to prove why the venue was proper, she responded she lives in Alabama and currently received medical treatment there and believed it “the most convenient.” She failed to cite any suggestion that a substantial portion of events occurred in the district. In fact, the crash happened in Florida and the alleged negligent maintenance, inspection and repair of the defendant vehicle happened there, too.
The fact that plaintiff is receiving medical treatment here in Alabama is not enough to assert proper venue in Alabama.
Rather than transfer the case, the court dismissed it on the grounds plaintiff had not asserted doing so would pose a bar to refile of the action in the proper venue due to statute of limitation issues, and further, it was found her attorney simply made an erroneous guess with regard to jurisdiction — an obvious error.
Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.
Nuckols v. Stevens et al., Oct. 14, 2014, U.S. District Court for Middle District of Alabama, Northern Division
More Blog Entries:
Travelers Property Casualty Co. v. Moore – Company Liability for Workers Off-the-Clock, Sept. 7, 2014, Montgomery Car Accident Lawyer Blog