In a legal context, the word “venue” refers to the district or county in which a case may be filed. Venue may be assigned by statute or chosen by the parties for the purposes of convenience. Every state has a statute that prescribes the requirements for proper venue based on the type of lawsuit being filed. For the most part, however, venue is generally considered proper when a lawsuit is filed within a district where a defendant resides.
Venue is often confused with another legal term known as, “jurisdiction.” Although the two are closely related, they do not have the same meaning. Jurisdiction is a constitutional requirement (as opposed to a statutory) that determines whether a court has authority to rule on a particular legal matter. A court must have personal jurisdiction (i.e., the authority to make decisions over parties being sued) before it can render a judgment.
A good trick to distinguish venue from jurisdiction is by remembering that venue simply means the geographical location wherein a lawsuit can be properly filed.
In the context of product liability claims, venue may be proper where:
- A defendant regularly conducted business operations;
- The place where the parties signed or performed a contract;
- The location where an accident or violation of law occurred;
- A defendant’s principal place of business; and/or
- The place in which the defendant’s primary home residence is located.
In addition, the parties may have agreed to litigate issues in a particular venue when they signed a contract. Venue may also be proper if all of the parties to a lawsuit agree to a request to change the venue for convenience purposes and the court approves the request.
Can the Venue for a Trial be Challenged in a Products Liability Case?
It is possible for a party to challenge or object to the venue of a trial in a products liability case if that party files a motion to transfer venue in a timely manner. The motion to transfer venue must also be filed in the appropriate courts and must be performed in accordance with procedural rules.
In contrast, if the party challenging the venue fails to raise the motion in a timely and proper manner, it will result in the party waiving or forfeiting their right to challenge the venue moving forward.
In addition, waiver of this option may be implied if a party remains silent in regard to the current location of a venue, or if they enter a guilty plea. In most cases, the parties may only file a motion for a change of venue either at the beginning of the trial or right before the trial starts. Again, these requirements may vary based on the state.
However, the main source of law that governs such motions can be found under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”), or alternatively, under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (“FRCrP”) if it is a criminal case. For the purposes of a product liability claim, it will most likely be heard in a civil court and thus the requirements of the FRCP will apply.
For What Reasons Can the Venue of a Trial be Changed?
Unlike personal jurisdiction, a court is not required to have proper venue in order to issue a valid judgment. In other words, neither party is guaranteed a right to a certain venue. The venue of a trial may be changed for a number of reasons, including the following:
- The current venue is improper: A party, usually the defendant, may argue that the current venue is not proper according to procedural rules.
- Forum non Conveniens: A party may also argue that even if the current venue is proper under the procedural rules, another venue may be better suited or more convenient for the parties in the case. The phrase, “Forum non Conveniens,” literally translates to an “inconvenient forum” in Latin.
- Impartial jury: Publicity about a trial can influence the jury pool in a particular location. This frequently happens in high-profile cases. As a result, the court may agree to transfer the case to a different region or to another state in order to prevent prejudice or discrimination against the defendant.
- Interests of justice: The interests of justice is a legal doctrine that has broad uses. For instance, it generally permits a case to be relocated for various reasons, such as travel expenses, to clear up court docket congestion in a specific court, it may be where most of the evidence and witnesses are located, the choice of applicable law may warrant it, and/or it may be a more efficient use of judicial resources.
When a party files a motion to transfer venue, it will be left up to a judge’s discretion to determine which venue will be considered as the most suitable to decide the final outcome of the case. In some instances, the location of a trial may be changed for procedural reasons as well.
For example, if a case is remanded from federal to state court, then this would change the location of where the case is being heard or where subsequent case-related documents are filed.
Although the law is careful to protect against this practice, a party may attempt to “forum shop” by requesting a change of venue. Forum shopping is defined as a type of strategy in which a party may intentionally choose a specific venue in order to gain some sort of advantage. Both the law and the courts generally discourage this kind of behavior.
Products liability cases are particularly susceptible to the practice of forum shopping. The reason for this is because many product liability lawsuits tend to involve transactions that occur between several regions. Additionally, some product liability laws may not be available in every state. Thus, choice of law and venue can become a major deciding factor in a product liability case.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Change of Venue Issue?
Requesting to change the venue of a lawsuit is a serious matter. Not only can it have an effect on the outcome of your case, but there is also no turning back once the decision is made. Courts are generally hesitant to grant petitions for change of venue unless there is a very good reason to do so. However, if a court does approve a motion to transfer venue, it will usually only happen one time in a given case. Thus, you should be extremely cautious when making such a decision.
Therefore, if you wish to submit a motion to transfer venue or are experiencing issues that involve a venue change, then it is strongly encouraged that you hire a local consumer lawyer for further legal guidance. An experienced consumer lawyer who practices in your area will be able to explain how the process works in accordance with the venue statutes enacted in your state.
Your lawyer can also advise you as to whether a change of venue is necessary and/or may negatively impact the outcome of your particular case. In addition, your lawyer can assist you with the process of petitioning for a motion to transfer venue. If a dispute should arise over a change of venue issue, your lawyer will be able to provide representation in court as well.