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Forum and Venue Reform

Venue and forum non conveniens are two concepts that relate to ensuring that lawsuits have a logical connection with the jurisdiction in which they are heard.  Venue rules govern where, within a state, an action may be heard.  Forum non conveniens, a related concept, allows a court to refuse to hear a case if there is a more appropriate forum in which the case could and should be heard.  Although

similar to venue, forum non conveniens contemplates that the more appropriate forum will be in another jurisdiction (often another state) rather than in a different area of the same state.

PROBLEM:  Venue and forum non conveniens laws that allow cases to be brought in jurisdictions that have little or no relation to the defendant or the act giving rise to the cause of action facilitate forum shopping.  Forum shopping is a term that describes the actions by some personal injury lawyers of filing their cases in pro-plaintiff jurisdictions, where the fundamental concept of “equal justice under law” does not apply.  ATRA calls these jurisdictions “judicial hellholes.”  

ATRA’S POSITION:  ATRA supports venue reform that requires plaintiffs to bring their cases where they live or where they were injured, or where the defendant’s principal place of business is located.  ATRA supports forum non conveniens reform that ousts a case brought in one jurisdiction where the plaintiff lives elsewhere, the injury arose elsewhere, and the facts of the case and witnesses are located elsewhere. By strengthening the rules governing venue and forum non conveniens, both legislatures (who pass the rules) and courts (who apply the rules) can ensure that the cases are heard in a court that has a logical connection to the claim, rather than a court that will produce the highest award for the plaintiff.  

OPPOSITION:  The personal injury bar’s argument against venue and forum reform – that a plaintiff should be able to file a lawsuit in the jurisdiction of her choice – fails to address the hardship faced by defendants who are required to appear in courtrooms in jurisdictions with no logical connection to the claim, where the fundamental concept of “equal justice under law” may not apply. 

Alabama

Forum Non Conveniens Reform: (1987). Gives judges the authority to refuse out-of-state cases on the basis of convenience or inconvenience to parties and witnesses and allows judges to transfer cases to the most appropriate court.

Venue Reform: SB 305 (1999) Establishes venue rules to restrict forum shopping.  Restricts lawsuit filings against corporations to qualified venues.  Specifies venue rules for class action lawsuits and actions involving multiple plaintiffs.

Venue Reform: S.B. 212 (2011) Prohibits “forum shopping” of wrongful death actions by requiring that a suit can be brought only in the county where the decedent could have filed suit.  This will prevent the practice of finding a personal representative in a plaintiff-favorable county solely for purposes of obtaining venue there due to the residency of the personal representative. 

Arkansas

Venue Reform: HB 1038 (2003). Limits venue to the judicial district in which the action occurred, the plaintiff resides, or the defendant resides.

Georgia

Venue Reform: HB 792 (2003). Provides that Georgia courts may decline jurisdiction of any civil causes of a nonresident by considering the following factors: (1) the place of accrual of the cause of action; (2) the location of witnesses; (3) the residence or residences of the parties; (4) whether a litigant is attempting to circumvent the applicable statute of limitations of another state; and (5) the public factor of the convenience to and burden upon the court.

Venue Reform: SB 3 (2005). In cases involving multiple defendants, if defendants who reside in the county where the action is pending are discharged from liability, the non-resident defendant may require that the case be transferred to a county or court in which venue would otherwise be proper.  Contains a forum non conveniens clause, which allows courts to dismiss cases with little or no connection to the venue.

Louisiana

Venue Reform: HB 858 (1999); Amended La. C.C.P. Art. 123. Allows a district court judge to dismiss a civil lawsuit upon a defendant’s request when the act giving rise to the suit occurred outside the territorial limits of the state.

Missouri

Venue Reform: HB 393 (2005); § 538.232 R.S.Mo. Establishes venue in the county where the plaintiff was first injured by the wrongful acts or negligent conduct alleged in all tort actions in which the plaintiff was first injured in Missouri.  Established venue in all tort actions in which the plaintiff was first injured outside Missouri: (a)  For corporate defendants, in any county where the registered agent is located or, if the plaintiff's principal place of residence was in Missouri when the plaintiff was first injured, in the county of the plaintiff's principal place of residence on the date the plaintiff was first injured; and (b) for individual defendants, in any county of the defendant's principal place of residence in Missouri or, if the plaintiff's principal place of residence was in Missouri when the plaintiff was first injured, in the county containing the plaintiff's principal place of residence on the date the plaintiff was first injured.  Specified that in wrongful death actions the plaintiff is considered first injured   where the decedent was first injured by the wrongful acts or negligent conduct alleged in the action.  Specified that in a spouse's claim for loss of consortium the plaintiff claiming consortium is considered first injured where the other spouse was first injured by the wrongful act or negligent conduct alleged in the action.  Specifies that the court must transfer venue to the county unanimously chosen by the parties if all parties agree in writing to a change of venue.  If parties are added after the date of the transfer and they do not consent to the transfer, the cause of action will be transferred to a county in which venue is otherwise appropriate.

Mississippi

Medical Liability Reform: Venue Reform: H.B.2 (special session) (2002); Amended Miss. Code Ann. § 11-11-3. Limits venue in medical liability actions to the county where the cause of action occurred.

Venue Reform: HB 13 (special session) (2004); Amended Miss. Code Ann. § 11-11-3. Provides that civil suits may be filed in the county where the defendant resides (in the case of a corporation, the county of its principal place of business) or in the county where a “substantial alleged act or omission occurred or where a substantial event that cause the injury occurred.”  Plaintiff may file in the county where he/she lives if venue cannot be established under above criteria.  Provides that venue must be proper for each plaintiff.  Provides that the trial court shall dismiss the claim or action if it would be more properly decided in another state.  If the claim would be more properly decided in another county, provided the case shall be transferred to the appropriate county.  Provides that for medical providers, venue shall be proper where the act or omission occurred.

Oklahoma

Forum non conviens: HB 1603 (2009). Allows the court to move a case which should be more properly heard somewhere else in the state, thus restricting “forum shopping."  Held unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in Douglas v. Cox Retirement Properties, June 2013.

Forum non conviens: H.B. 1003 (2013) Allows the court, upon a motion by either party or on its own, to decline jurisdiction, if in the interest of justice and for the convenience of the parties, an action would be more properly heard in another forum.”  The bill also outlines what the court shall consider in determining whether to grant a motion to stay, transfer or to dismiss an action.

South Carolina

Venue Reform: H 3008 (2005). Specifies that claims can only be brought where the most substantial part of the action arose or in the defendant’s principal place of business.  In cases against a non-resident defendant, the action must be brought where the most substantial part of the cause of action occurred, or where the plaintiff resides at the time the action arose.  Civil actions against (i) a domestic corporation or (ii) a foreign corporation required to possess and possessing a certificate of authority from the Secretary of State must be brought and tried in the county where the defendant has its principal place of business at the time the cause of action arose, or where the most substantial part of the cause of action occurred.  Civil actions against a foreign corporation that does not possess a certificate of authority from the Secretary of State must be brought and tried in the county where the most substantial part of the cause of action occurred, or where the plaintiff resides at the time the cause of action arose.

Tennessee

Venue Reform: H.B. 2008/S.B. 1522 (2011); Amended Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-4-104. Outlines the venues where civil suits can be filed to include the county where the claim accrued, where the defendant's principal place of business is located or where the defendant's registered agent is located.  If the defendant does not have a registered agent in Tennessee, venue is proper in the county where the person designated by statute as the defendant's agent for service of process is located.  This provision seeks to prevent forum shopping and deviates from current law, under which a business can be sued in any county in which it has an office. 

Texas

Forum Non Conveniens Doctrine: SB 2 (1993). Reinstates the forum non conveniens doctrine, which permits a court to decline to hear a case if justice would be better served by trying the case elsewhere.

Venue Reform: SB 32 (1995). Allows a plaintiff to bring a lawsuit where the injury occurred, where the defendant resides, or (if none of those apply) where the plaintiff resided when the injury or harm occurred.

Forum Non Conveniens Doctrine: SB 220 (1997). Restores the common-law doctrine of forum non conveniens to allow the court to decline to exercise jurisdiction in an action or claim for personal injury or wrongful death that arose outside of the state.

Venue Reform: HB 4 (2003). Provides that every plaintiff must establish venue independently of every other plaintiff.  Mandates dismissal or transfer of any plaintiff who cannot establish venue except upon exception showing.  Provides for interlocutory de novo appellate review of order granting or denying transfer or dismissal.  Contains a forum non conveniens clause that states that the court must decline jurisdiction if there is a better forum for the suit.

Forum Non Conveniens Doctrine: SB 15 (2005). Restores the discretion of trial court judges to dismiss lawsuits with little or no connection to Texas under the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

West Virginia

Venue Reform: SB 213 (2003). Provides for stricter parameters for non-residents to establish venue in state courts. Specifies that a substantial portion of the cause of action had to have occurred in the state.  Provides that each plaintiff has to establish venue independently.

2013
Oklahoma
Forum non conviens: H.B. 1003 (2013)

Allows the court, upon a motion by either party or on its own, to decline jurisdiction, if in the interest of justice and for the convenience of the parties, an action would be more properly heard in another forum.”  The bill also outlines what the court shall consider in determining whether to grant a motion to stay, transfer or to dismiss an action.

2011
Tennessee
Venue Reform: H.B. 2008/S.B. 1522 (2011); Amended Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-4-104.

Outlines the venues where civil suits can be filed to include the county where the claim accrued, where the defendant's principal place of business is located or where the defendant's registered agent is located.  If the defendant does not have a registered agent in Tennessee, venue is proper in the county where the person designated by statute as the defendant's agent for service of process is located.  This provision seeks to prevent forum shopping and deviates from current law, under which a business can be sued in any county in which it has an office. 

2011
Alabama
Venue Reform: S.B. 212 (2011)

Prohibits “forum shopping” of wrongful death actions by requiring that a suit can be brought only in the county where the decedent could have filed suit.  This will prevent the practice of finding a personal representative in a plaintiff-favorable county solely for purposes of obtaining venue there due to the residency of the personal representative. 

2009
Oklahoma
Forum non conviens: HB 1603 (2009).

Allows the court to move a case which should be more properly heard somewhere else in the state, thus restricting “forum shopping."  Held unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in Douglas v. Cox Retirement Properties, June 2013.

2005
Texas
Forum Non Conveniens Doctrine: SB 15 (2005).

Restores the discretion of trial court judges to dismiss lawsuits with little or no connection to Texas under the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

2005
Georgia
Venue Reform: SB 3 (2005).

In cases involving multiple defendants, if defendants who reside in the county where the action is pending are discharged from liability, the non-resident defendant may require that the case be transferred to a county or court in which venue would otherwise be proper.  Contains a forum non conveniens clause, which allows courts to dismiss cases with little or no connection to the venue.

2005
Missouri
Venue Reform: HB 393 (2005); § 538.232 R.S.Mo.

Establishes venue in the county where the plaintiff was first injured by the wrongful acts or negligent conduct alleged in all tort actions in which the plaintiff was first injured in Missouri.  Established venue in all tort actions in which the plaintiff was first injured outside Missouri: (a)  For corporate defendants, in any county where the registered agent is located or, if the plaintiff's principal place of residence was in Missouri when the plaintiff was first injured, in the county of the plaintiff's principal place of residence on the date the plaintiff was first injured; and (b) for individual defendants, in any county of the defendant's principal place of residence in Missouri or, if the plaintiff's principal place of residence was in Missouri when the plaintiff was first injured, in the county containing the plaintiff's principal place of residence on the date the plaintiff was first injured.  Specified that in wrongful death actions the plaintiff is considered first injured   where the decedent was first injured by the wrongful acts or negligent conduct alleged in the action.  Specified that in a spouse's claim for loss of consortium the plaintiff claiming consortium is considered first injured where the other spouse was first injured by the wrongful act or negligent conduct alleged in the action.  Specifies that the court must transfer venue to the county unanimously chosen by the parties if all parties agree in writing to a change of venue.  If parties are added after the date of the transfer and they do not consent to the transfer, the cause of action will be transferred to a county in which venue is otherwise appropriate.

2005
South Carolina
Venue Reform: H 3008 (2005).

Specifies that claims can only be brought where the most substantial part of the action arose or in the defendant’s principal place of business.  In cases against a non-resident defendant, the action must be brought where the most substantial part of the cause of action occurred, or where the plaintiff resides at the time the action arose.  Civil actions against (i) a domestic corporation or (ii) a foreign corporation required to possess and possessing a certificate of authority from the Secretary of State must be brought and tried in the county where the defendant has its principal place of business at the time the cause of action arose, or where the most substantial part of the cause of action occurred.  Civil actions against a foreign corporation that does not possess a certificate of authority from the Secretary of State must be brought and tried in the county where the most substantial part of the cause of action occurred, or where the plaintiff resides at the time the cause of action arose.

2004
Mississippi
Venue Reform: HB 13 (special session) (2004); Amended Miss. Code Ann. § 11-11-3.

Provides that civil suits may be filed in the county where the defendant resides (in the case of a corporation, the county of its principal place of business) or in the county where a “substantial alleged act or omission occurred or where a substantial event that cause the injury occurred.”  Plaintiff may file in the county where he/she lives if venue cannot be established under above criteria.  Provides that venue must be proper for each plaintiff.  Provides that the trial court shall dismiss the claim or action if it would be more properly decided in another state.  If the claim would be more properly decided in another county, provided the case shall be transferred to the appropriate county.  Provides that for medical providers, venue shall be proper where the act or omission occurred.

2003
Texas
Venue Reform: HB 4 (2003).

Provides that every plaintiff must establish venue independently of every other plaintiff.  Mandates dismissal or transfer of any plaintiff who cannot establish venue except upon exception showing.  Provides for interlocutory de novo appellate review of order granting or denying transfer or dismissal.  Contains a forum non conveniens clause that states that the court must decline jurisdiction if there is a better forum for the suit.

2003
West Virginia
Venue Reform: SB 213 (2003).

Provides for stricter parameters for non-residents to establish venue in state courts. Specifies that a substantial portion of the cause of action had to have occurred in the state.  Provides that each plaintiff has to establish venue independently.

2003
Arkansas
Venue Reform: HB 1038 (2003).

Limits venue to the judicial district in which the action occurred, the plaintiff resides, or the defendant resides.

2003
Georgia
Venue Reform: HB 792 (2003).

Provides that Georgia courts may decline jurisdiction of any civil causes of a nonresident by considering the following factors: (1) the place of accrual of the cause of action; (2) the location of witnesses; (3) the residence or residences of the parties; (4) whether a litigant is attempting to circumvent the applicable statute of limitations of another state; and (5) the public factor of the convenience to and burden upon the court.

2002
Mississippi
Medical Liability Reform: Venue Reform: H.B.2 (special session) (2002); Amended Miss. Code Ann. § 11-11-3.

Limits venue in medical liability actions to the county where the cause of action occurred.

1999
Alabama
Venue Reform: SB 305 (1999)

Establishes venue rules to restrict forum shopping.  Restricts lawsuit filings against corporations to qualified venues.  Specifies venue rules for class action lawsuits and actions involving multiple plaintiffs.

1999
Louisiana
Venue Reform: HB 858 (1999); Amended La. C.C.P. Art. 123.

Allows a district court judge to dismiss a civil lawsuit upon a defendant’s request when the act giving rise to the suit occurred outside the territorial limits of the state.

1997
Texas
Forum Non Conveniens Doctrine: SB 220 (1997).

Restores the common-law doctrine of forum non conveniens to allow the court to decline to exercise jurisdiction in an action or claim for personal injury or wrongful death that arose outside of the state.

1995
Texas
Venue Reform: SB 32 (1995).

Allows a plaintiff to bring a lawsuit where the injury occurred, where the defendant resides, or (if none of those apply) where the plaintiff resided when the injury or harm occurred.

1993
Texas
Forum Non Conveniens Doctrine: SB 2 (1993).

Reinstates the forum non conveniens doctrine, which permits a court to decline to hear a case if justice would be better served by trying the case elsewhere.

1987
Alabama
Forum Non Conveniens Reform: (1987).

Gives judges the authority to refuse out-of-state cases on the basis of convenience or inconvenience to parties and witnesses and allows judges to transfer cases to the most appropriate court.

Constitutionality: Unchallenged

Oklahoma
Forum non conviens: H.B. 1003 (2013)

Allows the court, upon a motion by either party or on its own, to decline jurisdiction, if in the interest of justice and for the convenience of the parties, an action would be more properly heard in another forum.”  The bill also outlines what the court shall consider in determining whether to grant a motion to stay, transfer or to dismiss an action.

Tennessee
Venue Reform: H.B. 2008/S.B. 1522 (2011); Amended Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-4-104.

Outlines the venues where civil suits can be filed to include the county where the claim accrued, where the defendant's principal place of business is located or where the defendant's registered agent is located.  If the defendant does not have a registered agent in Tennessee, venue is proper in the county where the person designated by statute as the defendant's agent for service of process is located.  This provision seeks to prevent forum shopping and deviates from current law, under which a business can be sued in any county in which it has an office. 

Alabama
Venue Reform: S.B. 212 (2011)

Prohibits “forum shopping” of wrongful death actions by requiring that a suit can be brought only in the county where the decedent could have filed suit.  This will prevent the practice of finding a personal representative in a plaintiff-favorable county solely for purposes of obtaining venue there due to the residency of the personal representative. 

Texas
Forum Non Conveniens Doctrine: SB 15 (2005).

Restores the discretion of trial court judges to dismiss lawsuits with little or no connection to Texas under the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

Georgia
Venue Reform: SB 3 (2005).

In cases involving multiple defendants, if defendants who reside in the county where the action is pending are discharged from liability, the non-resident defendant may require that the case be transferred to a county or court in which venue would otherwise be proper.  Contains a forum non conveniens clause, which allows courts to dismiss cases with little or no connection to the venue.

Missouri
Venue Reform: HB 393 (2005); § 538.232 R.S.Mo.

Establishes venue in the county where the plaintiff was first injured by the wrongful acts or negligent conduct alleged in all tort actions in which the plaintiff was first injured in Missouri.  Established venue in all tort actions in which the plaintiff was first injured outside Missouri: (a)  For corporate defendants, in any county where the registered agent is located or, if the plaintiff's principal place of residence was in Missouri when the plaintiff was first injured, in the county of the plaintiff's principal place of residence on the date the plaintiff was first injured; and (b) for individual defendants, in any county of the defendant's principal place of residence in Missouri or, if the plaintiff's principal place of residence was in Missouri when the plaintiff was first injured, in the county containing the plaintiff's principal place of residence on the date the plaintiff was first injured.  Specified that in wrongful death actions the plaintiff is considered first injured   where the decedent was first injured by the wrongful acts or negligent conduct alleged in the action.  Specified that in a spouse's claim for loss of consortium the plaintiff claiming consortium is considered first injured where the other spouse was first injured by the wrongful act or negligent conduct alleged in the action.  Specifies that the court must transfer venue to the county unanimously chosen by the parties if all parties agree in writing to a change of venue.  If parties are added after the date of the transfer and they do not consent to the transfer, the cause of action will be transferred to a county in which venue is otherwise appropriate.

South Carolina
Venue Reform: H 3008 (2005).

Specifies that claims can only be brought where the most substantial part of the action arose or in the defendant’s principal place of business.  In cases against a non-resident defendant, the action must be brought where the most substantial part of the cause of action occurred, or where the plaintiff resides at the time the action arose.  Civil actions against (i) a domestic corporation or (ii) a foreign corporation required to possess and possessing a certificate of authority from the Secretary of State must be brought and tried in the county where the defendant has its principal place of business at the time the cause of action arose, or where the most substantial part of the cause of action occurred.  Civil actions against a foreign corporation that does not possess a certificate of authority from the Secretary of State must be brought and tried in the county where the most substantial part of the cause of action occurred, or where the plaintiff resides at the time the cause of action arose.

Mississippi
Venue Reform: HB 13 (special session) (2004); Amended Miss. Code Ann. § 11-11-3.

Provides that civil suits may be filed in the county where the defendant resides (in the case of a corporation, the county of its principal place of business) or in the county where a “substantial alleged act or omission occurred or where a substantial event that cause the injury occurred.”  Plaintiff may file in the county where he/she lives if venue cannot be established under above criteria.  Provides that venue must be proper for each plaintiff.  Provides that the trial court shall dismiss the claim or action if it would be more properly decided in another state.  If the claim would be more properly decided in another county, provided the case shall be transferred to the appropriate county.  Provides that for medical providers, venue shall be proper where the act or omission occurred.

Texas
Venue Reform: HB 4 (2003).

Provides that every plaintiff must establish venue independently of every other plaintiff.  Mandates dismissal or transfer of any plaintiff who cannot establish venue except upon exception showing.  Provides for interlocutory de novo appellate review of order granting or denying transfer or dismissal.  Contains a forum non conveniens clause that states that the court must decline jurisdiction if there is a better forum for the suit.

West Virginia
Venue Reform: SB 213 (2003).

Provides for stricter parameters for non-residents to establish venue in state courts. Specifies that a substantial portion of the cause of action had to have occurred in the state.  Provides that each plaintiff has to establish venue independently.

Arkansas
Venue Reform: HB 1038 (2003).

Limits venue to the judicial district in which the action occurred, the plaintiff resides, or the defendant resides.

Georgia
Venue Reform: HB 792 (2003).

Provides that Georgia courts may decline jurisdiction of any civil causes of a nonresident by considering the following factors: (1) the place of accrual of the cause of action; (2) the location of witnesses; (3) the residence or residences of the parties; (4) whether a litigant is attempting to circumvent the applicable statute of limitations of another state; and (5) the public factor of the convenience to and burden upon the court.

Mississippi
Medical Liability Reform: Venue Reform: H.B.2 (special session) (2002); Amended Miss. Code Ann. § 11-11-3.

Limits venue in medical liability actions to the county where the cause of action occurred.

Alabama
Venue Reform: SB 305 (1999)

Establishes venue rules to restrict forum shopping.  Restricts lawsuit filings against corporations to qualified venues.  Specifies venue rules for class action lawsuits and actions involving multiple plaintiffs.

Louisiana
Venue Reform: HB 858 (1999); Amended La. C.C.P. Art. 123.

Allows a district court judge to dismiss a civil lawsuit upon a defendant’s request when the act giving rise to the suit occurred outside the territorial limits of the state.

Texas
Forum Non Conveniens Doctrine: SB 220 (1997).

Restores the common-law doctrine of forum non conveniens to allow the court to decline to exercise jurisdiction in an action or claim for personal injury or wrongful death that arose outside of the state.

Texas
Venue Reform: SB 32 (1995).

Allows a plaintiff to bring a lawsuit where the injury occurred, where the defendant resides, or (if none of those apply) where the plaintiff resided when the injury or harm occurred.

Texas
Forum Non Conveniens Doctrine: SB 2 (1993).

Reinstates the forum non conveniens doctrine, which permits a court to decline to hear a case if justice would be better served by trying the case elsewhere.

Alabama
Forum Non Conveniens Reform: (1987).

Gives judges the authority to refuse out-of-state cases on the basis of convenience or inconvenience to parties and witnesses and allows judges to transfer cases to the most appropriate court.

Constitutionality: Challenged and Struckdown

Oklahoma
Forum non conviens: HB 1603 (2009).

Allows the court to move a case which should be more properly heard somewhere else in the state, thus restricting “forum shopping."  Held unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in Douglas v. Cox Retirement Properties, June 2013.