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Change of Venue in a Product Liability Claim

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What is Venue?

Venue refers to the proper location where a legal case may be heard. For cases involving state law violations, venue is the corresponding subdivision of the state. For federal law violations, venue is the proper federal district.   

In product liability claims, venue can be the place where the defendant regularly conducted their business, where a production contract was executed, or where an accident or violation occurred. It may also be the defendant’s principal place of business, or the residence where the defendant resides. Parties can also agree to a specific venue in a contract. 

Venue is often confused with the legal term “jurisdiction”. Jurisdiction refers to a court’s authority to decide a particular legal matter. A court must have jurisdiction before it can render a judgment. In contrast, venue simply refers to the geographic location of the court where the lawsuit is heard. Venue requirements vary from region to region and depend on the type of offense committed.  

Can the Venue for a Trial be Challenged in a Products Liability Case?

Yes, a party can object to the venue of a trial if they file a motion for a change of venue. This must be done in a timely manner and in accordance with procedural rules. Failure to raise the motion will result in the party waiving or forfeiting their right to challenge the venue. 

Waiver may be implied if the party remains silent with regards to venue, or if they enter a guilty plea. The motion for a change of venue is usually raised at the beginning of the trial or before it starts. The body of laws governing motions is the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  

For What Reasons Can the Venue of a Trial be Changed? 

Proper venue is not required for a court to issue a judgment. In other words, neither party is guaranteed a right to a particular venue. The venue may be changed for many reasons, including:

  • An impartial jury: Pretrial publicity can influence the jury pool selection in favor of one party. This happens frequently in high-profile cases, and as a result the case may be moved to another region or state to prevent discrimination and prejudice. 
  • The current venue is improper: One party, usually the defendant, may argue that the current venue is not valid under procedural rules.  
  • Forum non Conveniens: One party may argue that even if the current venue is procedurally valid, another court location is more appropriate. “Non Conveniens” means that the venue is not the most convenient location for the parties.
  • Interests of Justice: This is a broad catch-all doctrine that allows the case to be relocated for a number of reasons, such as: the location of evidence or witnesses, travel expenses, efficient use of judicial resources, court docket congestion, and choice of applicable law

When a motion for change of venue is raised, it is up to the judge’s discretion to determine which venue will be most suitable for the outcome of the case. The location of a trial can also change for procedural reasons, such as when a case is remanded from a federal court to a state court.

Choosing a venue in order to purposefully benefit a party is known as “forum shopping” and is generally discouraged by courts. However, it may be necessary given the factors listed above. 

Products liability cases are especially given to forum shopping. This is because many product liability cases involve transactions across several regions. Some product liability laws are not available in every state, so choice of applicable law is a major factor in products liability cases.  

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Change of Venue Issue?

Changing the venue of a case is a serious decision that can have major consequences for the outcome of your trial. An experienced lawyer will be able to inform you whether a change of venue is necessary. Attorneys are often familiar with the laws and courts in other jurisdictions, and can draw upon their experience to select the most advantageous venue. 
Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 06-13-2012 02:06 PM PDT

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