Alabama Supreme Court Reverses Course On Car Accident Venue Question
In a December 2018 post, I asked the question — Is the Alabama Supreme Court Biased Against Car Accident Victims on Venue Issues? At our office, we file and prepare many car accident and injury cases for trial. Where can a case properly be filed? Where is venue proper? Sometimes, venue is proper in more than one county. Sometimes, you have a choice. When you do, venue can be a huge issue. When we have a choice, we consider carefully which county may be better for the case.
How is our Supreme Court wading into the venue issue? In recent years, our Supreme Court issued several decisions using a principle called “forum non conveniens” to transfer cases. Forum non conveniens allows courts to transfer a case from the proper venue where filed to another proper venue for “the interest of justice” or the “convenience of parties and witnesses.” Should the court make subjective decisions on “convenience” to overrule a plaintiff’s chosen venue? Historically, the bar has been high. Historically, courts would defer to the chosen venue unless it had little or no connection at all to the case. I think courts should defer to the plaintiff’s proper choice of venue.
In its recent decisions, the Supreme Court forgot the deference which should be extended to the plaintiff’s choice of venue. Our Supreme Court repeatedly used the principal of forum non conveniens to transfer personal injury cases. In my 2018 post, I criticized the willingness of our Supreme Court to impose its subjective choice of venue on a plaintiff.
My prior post discusses the 2018 decision in Ex parte Tyson where a truck accident victim had a valid choice of filing the claim in either Marshall or Cullman County. The injured party chose to file in Marshall County. Both counties possessed valid and strong connections to the claim. Yet, our Supreme Court waded into the choice and decided Cullman County had a much stronger interest. I totally disagreed with our Supreme Court subjectively overruling a proper choice of venue. That 2018 decision was wrong.
Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court withdrew its 2018 Ex parte Tyson decision and replaced the opinion with a new one. You can read the new opinion here. This time, the Justices got it right. The Supreme Court allowed the injury victim to continue pursuing his accident and injury claims in Marshall County where he initially filed his case. In its new decision, the Court held:
[A]lthough there is a strong connection between the present case and Cullman County, the connection to Marshall County is also strong. Because Craig and Tyson [The Defendants] have not satisfied their burden of showing that Marshall County’s connection to the underlying action is ‘weak’ or ‘little,’ the trial court did not exceed its discretion in denying Craig and Tyson’s motion for a change of venue . . .
If you were hurt in a car crash, how does this venue decision affect you? My 2018 post provided three points which remain important. They are:
You need an attorney who is a student of the law. Issues like forum and venue matter. Personal injury cases involve numerous strategic and legal issues. The decisions on these issues can impact the value of your claim tremendously. Pick a lawyer who is serious about preparing and planning your case from start to finish.
You need an attorney with real courtroom experience in the potential venues. Does that billboard lawyer have any courtroom experience? No. Serious injuries need good lawyers with experience in actual, local courtrooms.
You need an attorney who will work hard to prepare your case. If you suffered a serious injury, you need an attorney will will work hard to put your case in the best possible position for maximum recovery.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we help Alabama citizens injured in car and truck accidents. We have prepared and tried cases in counties across Alabama. If you have a legal question, let us know. We are happy to discuss your issue. Consultations are always free and confidential.