Explains how to select a proper venue in personal injury cases.
Clients often wonder how lawyers determine the correct court to hear their case when we file a lawsuit to recover damages for personal injuries. While jurisdiction says in what court you file your lawsuit, “venue” is the county where you file your action. The location for filing a civil case is determined by the general venue statute or, when applicable, by a special venue statute governing the cause of action. The general statute lists several different grounds that can be used to support venue, and, as a consequence, it is possible to have a situation where more than one county is the proper venue for you to file your lawsuit. For example, in a car accident case, if the driver that hit you lives in Miami-Dade county, the owner of the car lives in Broward County, and the accident happened in Monroe County, you can choose which of those three counties to file your personal injury lawsuit in. Some specific venue statutes offer a choice of venue while others limit venue to only one county. The purpose of a venue statute is to ensure that litigation will be conducted in the forum that will cause the least amount of inconvenience and expense to the parties who are required to answer and defend the action. However, these considerations are subject to the plaintiff’s right to select venue when more than one alternative is provided by statute. The plaintiff has the privilege of selecting venue from among the alternatives provided.
When Venue is Proper in Multiple Counties
If venue is proper in more than one county, the plaintiff has the right to select the county where the action is filed. Under Florida law, the plaintiff’s choice of venue is presumed to be correct. This means that a trial judge must honor the plaintiff’s selection of the forum as long as that selection falls within one of the alternatives set out in the applicable venue statute. While the plaintiff has the ability to choose the venue in which he or she files, that right is not absolute. If the defendant believes that the plaintiff has selected a venue which is not permitted under the law, the defendant may file an objection and ask the court to transfer the case to a different forum. Moreover, even if all the parties agree that the plaintiff’s choice of venue is permissible, the defendant still may ask the court to transfer the case to a different forum if a good cause is presented, such as one that avoids substantial inconvenience to the parties or witnesses. However, if the defendant wants to challenge the venue of the action, the burden is on the defendant to show that venue is incorrect and that the case should be transferred to another county.
Venue in Florida
In most cases, the alternatives will be those listed in the general venue statute; that is, the action may be filed where the cause of action accrued, where the defendant resides, or where the property in litigation is situated. If the defendant resides in one county and the cause of action accrued in another, the plaintiff may file suit in either county. To put it more simply, venue is in the county where the person or business entity you are suing lives or does business or the county where the dispute arose, like where an accident happened, or where a contract was entered into or broken. In tort actions, the cause of action accrues where the tort occurs, that is, when the act creating the right to bring the suit has occurred. Thus, generally, a cause of action for tort is said to accrue, for venue purposes, in the county where the act or omission creating the right to bring the action occurred, even if the plaintiff may have suffered damages, and the defendant’s negligent conduct occurred in another county.
More specifically, a tort claim is deemed to have accrued where the last event necessary to make the defendant liable for the tort took place or where the harmful effect of the defendant’s acts first took effect; that is, the cause of action accrues where the plaintiff first suffers injury. Generally, the plaintiff’s choice of venue will not be defeated because there are subsequent claims made between the defendants or against other parties in the same case. A defendant does not have a right to select a new venue on a crossclaim because the action asserted by the crossclaim is one that is ancillary to the main proceeding initiated by the plaintiff. For the same reason, a defendant has no right to select a new venue on a third-party complaint filed against a new party to the litigation. A third-party complaint is like a cross claim in the respect that it initiates a proceeding that is ancillary to the action stated in the initial pleading.
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