Understanding Where to File a Lawsuit

         Two of the most important decisions in seeking to redress a civil wrong are whether or not to bring a formal lawsuit and where to bring the lawsuit.  The first question is a very personal one.  It is normally made after some attempt to reach a resolution between parties before filing.  The other side will not make what you consider a reasonable offer to resolve the matter, the next step is filing suit.  The decision of where to bring the suit is normally one of finding the most advantageous (for your side) place to file and eventually go before a jury.  This is what I hope to enlighten with the various factors to consider.

         Determining which state to bring suit, assuming it is not a Federal matter, will normally come down to the two usual grounds for Civil jurisdiction:  The place the incident occurred or the state of residence of the Defendant.  In South Carolina, the venue (or county) rules use the same grounds, place of the incidence or county residence of the Defendant.  In sticking to venue, it’s important to understand that different venues provide different expectations for results.  Some venues are more Liberal and result in juries which historically give more and higher jury verdicts to the person bringing the suit.  Some venues are more conservative, and juries give fewer and lesser awards to those bringing cases.  For example, in South Carolina, it is generally known among attorneys that Greenville County is considered more conservative and Hampton County is considered more Liberal.  Therefore, it would be less advantageous to bring a suit in Greenville as a general rule.

        Another factor in determining venue can be deciding whether or not it is best to have the case heard by a jury in Federal Court.  In the event of parties from different states and a matter beyond $75,000.00, a party can bring a case to Federal Court or have a case removed from state to Federal Court.  This may be advantageous for a party defending a lawsuit and stuck in a Liberal venue. The Federal jury will not be residents solely of the Liberal venue.  This is something most lawyers can help with understanding based on the differing situation.  In some instances, the case may have to go before a Federal Court due to being a Federal jurisdictional matter.

         Many times, parties have little discretion in the venue.  If the accident occurred in the same county as the Defendant’s residence (state matter) then the case would have to be brought in the one venue.  If there are multiple parties involved, venue can be brought in the residence of the first Defendant sued, even though other parties can be brought into that jurisdiction even though the incident occurred elsewhere.  Sometimes, the “place” the incident (wrong) occurred can be open to question.  For example, with a breach of contract between parties who contracted from different venues (either over the internet or mailing contract back and forth), this might open several potential venues.  In some cases, parties can seek a change of venue based on some kind of argument that justice cannot be served in that venue for a party (or parties).  For example, in cases involving pre-trial publicity that could rise to a level to request a change of venue.  

         The key thing after venue is settled is winning the case, and juries are always open to good advocacy.  Just keep in mind the basics of determining where to bring a suit.