Opposing a Motion to Change Venue
In the context of a personal injury lawsuit, "venue" generally refers to which specific court is overseeing the lawsuit. This court is usually selected by the plaintiff when their attorney chooses a court with whom to file the "complaint" that initiates a personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury lawsuits in California are generally filed with one of the "superior courts" that are organized one to a county -- the Superior Court of Sacramento County, the Superior Court of Placer County, the Superior Court of Yolo County, etc. There are specific laws contained in the California Code of Civil Procedure that state where a personal injury lawsuit may adequately be "venued" -- that is, where the plaintiff's attorney may properly file the complaint, and these rules will often provide the attorney with valid alternative choices of county superior courts with whom to file the complaint. Since not all county superior courts are alike, an experienced personal injury attorney will seek (when possible) to file a particular lawsuit in a county superior court that will provide an advantage to their plaintiff clients. Defense attorneys who are paid by insurance companies to represent defendants in personal injury cases will likewise perceive advantages or disadvantages to their clients from having lawsuits heard in one county's court versus another county. When this happens, the plaintiff's personal injury attorneys will often find themselves in the position of opposing a motion to change venue.Options for Venue in a California Personal Injury Lawsuit
Although any county superior court will file a personal injury complaint accompanied by the applicable filing fee, a personal injury attorney needs to follow the rules for a proper venue or find themselves opposing a motion to change venue that will very likely be granted. Among the valid options that the California Code of Civil Procedure provides for selecting which county superior court to file a complaint with are:
- The county where the traffic accident occurred -- or slip-and-fall, dog bite, or whatever injury incident forms the basis of the lawsuit;
- A county where one of the named defendants resides;
- A county where a named business defendant has its principal place of business.
Since some county courts may be much more overloaded with cases than another county, while others may appear to be "plaintiff-friendly" or "defendant-friendly," it's helpful for the plaintiff's attorney to be able to choose from among more than a single county when filing the complaint.
Another interesting situation occurs when a plaintiff has experienced two injury incidents within a relatively short period of time where the injuries are to the same body parts -- where a significant part of the legal argument will be to determine "apportionment," assigning a percentage of the injury damages to one incident versus the other. In these cases, it is often advantageous (and efficient for all the parties) to file a single lawsuit that includes both the injury incidents and all of the defendants involved with both. From the standpoint of selecting a venue for such a lawsuit, the plaintiff's attorney now has the option of selecting a court location that is proper for either of the two incidents -- that is, the county where either incident occurred or where defendants from either incident reside or do business.
Since a case like this now has multiple defense attorneys, each of whom may perceive a different venue advantage or disadvantage for their defendant clients, a motion for change of venue (or for separating the two cases) becomes very likely. An example of portions of a plaintiff opposing a motion to change venue in such a case is shown below.
PLAINTIFF’S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE TO SEVER DEFENDANT JOHN DOE
(Defendant, John Doe, has filed a motion seeking the court's order to change venue to another county or alternately separating the two injury cases.)
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
(This quickly summarizes the reasons for filing a lawsuit covering both injury incidents, and introduces the possible venues for the filing based upon the different counties where injuries occurred, and the residences/places of business for three different named defendants.)
This case stems from two separate motor vehicle collisions in which Plaintiff JANE DOE sustained serious injuries. The first of these accidents occurred on December 23, 2016, in Fairfield, Solano County, in which Defendant JOHN DOE rear-ended the plaintiff's vehicle on Interstate 80. The second accident occurred – just seven days later – on December 30, 2016 in Elk Grove, Sacramento County in which Defendant JAMES DOE, an employee of BIG BUSINESS, Inc., collided into the front of the plaintiff’s vehicle, while she was an occupant, causing additional injury to her already injured body.
For the reasons discussed below, and because this case is properly venued in Sacramento County Superior Court, Plaintiff hereby respectfully requests that this Court deny Defendant’s Motion To Transfer Venue or in the Alternative Sever Defendant JOHN DOE, so that all parties can be involved at a single trial and so that issues of apportionment, liability, and damages can be addressed in a meaningful fashion by the finder of fact in this multiple-impact action.
II. VENUE, IN SACRAMENTO COUNTY, WAS AND IS PROPER
(Plaintiff summarizes their argument opposing the motion brought by the defendant in the first accident.)
This case was filed in Sacramento County based upon the fact that (1) the second accident occurred in Sacramento County; (2) the second accident involves a defendant whose primary place of business is in Sacramento County, and (3) the second accident involves a defendant whose personal residence is within Sacramento County.
Where the venue is proper and in accordance with legislation concerning the same, neither the defendants, nor the Court, are permitted to change venue. The action was venued in the proper court, and there are no grounds for removing the action to another court, nor to severing the two causes of action, which both arise from motor vehicle negligence, seven days apart, and which both caused Plaintiff to sustain injury, re-injury, and similar injuries. Code of Civil Procedure Section 396a(d) states, “d) If it appears from the complaint or affidavit of the plaintiff that the superior court and court location where the action or proceeding is commenced are a proper court and court location for the trial thereof, all proper proceedings may be had, and the action or proceeding may be tried in that court at that location.”
A. The Action Filed Was Filed In the Proper Venue and Should Remain Venued In Sacramento County
(Plaintiff cities facts and legal authorities supporting their choice of venue.)
This action arises from an incident occurring in Sacramento County, by Sacramento County defendants. Thus, as a matter of law, venue is proper in Sacramento County. Weil & Brown, Civil Procedure Before Trial, at 3:480 is illustrative: “Venue in Transitory Actions: Except as otherwise provided by law, and subject to the power of the court to transfer . . . the county in which the defendants or some of them reside at the commencement of the action is the proper county for the trial of the action.” (CCP 395(a); Brown v. Sup. Ct. (1984) 37 Cal. 3d 477, 483.)
Here, Defendants do not dispute that the second accident involved an incident which occurred within Sacramento County’s jurisdictional limits, occasioned by the negligence of Defendants who reside within the Court’s jurisdiction. There is no dispute as the facts simply are that Plaintiff was injured in Sacramento County by Defendants who did reside in Sacramento County, at a business owned and operated by a Defendant whose principal place of business was in Sacramento County.
Thus, it is undisputed that Plaintiff, in filing this action, has met proper criterion for a Sacramento County venue, in three separate ways: residence of any individual defendant, location of injury incident, place of business of any business defendant. Accordingly, this venue is proper, Defendants may not stipulate to transfer venue, and defendants have “no right to compel transfer” as undertaken by the filing of this motion. The motion should be denied, and sanctions should be levied against Defendants for requiring that Plaintiff and her counsel expend considerable time and effort in preparing this opposition to a non-meritorious motion.
III. DEFENDANT’S ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANT’S MOTION ARE NOT PROPER GROUNDS UPON WHICH TO ORDER THE TRANSFER, NOR DOES DEFENDANT HAVE GROUNDS UPON WHICH TO SEVER THE TWO CAUSES OF ACTION
(The plaintiff provides specific arguments opposing the motion to change venue.)
A. The Severity of the Two Accidents Has No Bearing Upon Proper Venue
Defendants attempt to convince this court that, since the first accident was more severe than the second, then the first accident’s venue (Solano County) should somehow control where the trial of this two-cause-of-action litigation proceeding should be held. Defendants attempt to utilize Code of Civil Procedure Section 397 as the basis for this argument when requesting that this court determine that the “ends of justice would be promoted” by transfer. However, Defendants failed to cite the entirety of CCP 397 when alleging that code section was supportive of their position. Instead, the entire code section is entirely supportive of the denial of this motion -- CCP 397(a) should control as this case was venued in the proper Court and Plaintiff, in exercising her right and her option as to the venue of this action (Weil & Brown, Civil Procedure Before Trial at 3:497 – i.e., “The choice is up to Plaintiff; defendants have no right to have the action tried at their residence”) elected, lawfully, to file this action in Sacramento County, based, in large part, upon the fact that Plaintiff’s medical providers, and nearly all of them, are located in Sacramento; the witnesses to the second accident are located in Sacramento; the Plaintiff’s attorneys are located in Sacramento; and, thus, the trial of this action will be most efficient and less costly to Plaintiff and her medical providers, than an action in Solano County. Again, venue is and was proper, and Plaintiff has lawfully selected a county most convenient to her, her witnesses and experts, etc.
Simply, there are no provisions in the law or Code upon which this Court should determine that the interests of defendant DOE outweigh the interests, and lawful rights, of Plaintiff, based upon an argument concerning the severity of the two subject incidents.
B. Venue in Sacramento County Will Not Lead to a Waste of Judicial Resources
In another argument without basis under the law, the Defendants attempt to appeal to the Court’s clogged judicial calendar as a ground for having the matter transferred to another court, with another clogged judicial calendar. Defendants, in making this argument, have cited to no law, no code, nor any other logical basis upon which this Court could rule in their favor. Mere boilerplate, unsupported by any evidence, nor law, is insufficient to overcome legislated law concerning the venue, properly in Sacramento, in this action.
C. Venue in Solano County Cannot be Compelled based upon Stipulation of Defendants
(Plaintiff argues against the attempt by the defendants to simply agree among themselves that the venue should be changed.)
As set forth above, Monogram Co v. Kingsley (1951) 38 Cal.2d 28 is long-settled law on this issue and is law entirely in Plaintiff’s favor. Perhaps, had Defendant’s counsel read that case prior to the filing of this motion, Defendants would have elected not to file this motion at all. Certainly, there is no lawful basis upon which to contend that Defendants may stipulate to transfer of this matter to Solano County. Plaintiff would ask this Court to order sanctions against Defendants in large part because the motion does, and always did, lack merit as Defendants may not stipulate as a ground for a motion for changed venue.
IV. ISSUES OF APPORTIONMENT BETWEEN THE TWO COLLISIONS EXIST AND THIS COURT SHOULD NOT SEVER THE TWO CAUSES OF ACTION AS PLAINTIFF WOULD THEN SUSTAIN EXTREME PREJUDICE
(Plaintiff summarizes why the two cases should be joined together in a single lawsuit.)
In a tacit acknowledgment that there are no proper grounds for change of venue, Defendants pray, in the alternative, for an Order severing DOE from Plaintiff’s properly filed multiple-cause-of-action litigation. Apparently, Defendants believe that Plaintiff, in two separate trials, involving common issues of law, common issues of fact, common issues of negligence, common issues concerning the injuries sustained, and undoubtedly a need by the finder of fact to apportion between the two incidents -– that, under those circumstances -– Plaintiff should be saddled with an empty chair, at both trials. While ludicrous on its face, such contentions, and efforts to inflict prejudice, are likely exactly why Defendants have moved for this Court’s order in the first place.
Essentially, Defendants in failing to pay Plaintiff’s policy limits demand, and in failing to acknowledge that the law is in favor of trials in matters on their merits (rather than by ambush tactics, or tactics undoubtedly designed to inflict great prejudice upon Plaintiff) have filed this unmeritorious motion primarily as a motion to sever two entirely intertwined torts (occurring only 7 days apart).
Plaintiff properly filed her action as a consolidated matter involving both causes of action. The law concerning consolidation is long-standing and clear, “Where the actions at issue present essentially the same or overlapping issues, they should be consolidated and disposed of as a single proceeding” [Spector v. Superior Court (1961) 55 Cal.2d 839, 844. “The purpose underlying consolidation of actions is to promote trial convenience and economy by avoiding duplication of procedure, particularly in the proof issues common to both actions” [McLure v. Donovan (1949) 33 Cal.2d 717, 722-723.]
Plaintiff submits that the interests of justice require denial of Defendants’ efforts to sever the two actions, based upon similar facts, similar circumstances, proper venue, savings in judicial and party expenditures, and the fair and just trial, if necessary, of both causes of action, at one time, on their merits, by a single finder of fact (and to avoid inconsistent adjudications of common issues).
(The opposition to motion for change of venue was successful.)
Civil procedure is complicated, and proper steps on where and how to file a lawsuit and move it forward must be followed correctly. View this video from the California courts describing the basic steps on where and how the very simplest type of civil action -- a small claims lawsuit -- must be filed:Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer
Hello, I'm Ed Smith, a Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer. Filing a lawsuit that moves a client’s personal injury case from being a claim against an insurance company to being a formal legal action against the negligent defendants is an important step. Carefully choosing the court with whom to file the lawsuit – and opposing any defense efforts to later change that venue – is crucial to getting the best results possible for a plaintiff. If you or a family member have been seriously injured in an accident, please call us for free, friendly advice at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400, or reach out to us by using our online contact form.
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