Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer Explains Venue and the Cheeseman Standard
After you have been injured in a personal injury accident, one of the most important considerations for your case is where you will file your lawsuit. This is because each county has a courthouse that could hear your matter. But that does not mean that each court should hear your matter. Like other states, Pennsylvania law sets “venue” or the appropriate county where a lawsuit may be filed. The plaintiff, or the person who has been injured in the personal injury accident, is the one who sets the venue. Most times, a plaintiff wants every tactical advantage and will try to pick the best county for plaintiffs or the worst county for defendants, which is usually Philadelphia County. Law Offices Bernard M. Gross, P.C. in 1997 appealed a case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for their client over the venue. In Cheeseman v. Lethal Exterminator, Inc., 549 Pa. 200, 701 A. 2d 156(1997) Bernard Gross argued and won that a Defendant must demonstrate that Plaintiff’s choice of forum is oppressive and vexatious to allow for a change otherwise the forum Plaintiff chose to file their lawsuit is the appropriate forum. This case is still good law today.
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What is Venue?
Venue is the location of the case, sometimes called the location of trial—even though most cases settle before trial. The plaintiff, the injured person who is filing the lawsuit, is the one who selects the venue.
While he plaintiff could theoretically choose a venue in any county, under Pennsylvania law venue is proper in 1) the county where the defendant may be served, 2) where the cause of action arose, or 3) where the transaction or occurrence out of which the cause of action arose.
Against corporations or businesses, Pennsylvania law is more liberal and allows where the principal place of business is located or in any county where the businesses transact business.
Change of Venue: What Does it Mean?
When the plaintiff selects the correct venue but it is inconvenient to the defendant, or when the plaintiff selects a completely improper venue, a defendant can request a change of venue. xxThis is sometimes called an application for forum non-conveniens, or that an inconvenient forum has been selected. This often happens when a plaintiff sets a venue in Philadelphia County—a plaintiff-friendly county—but the defendant has minimum ties or connections there.
This, however, often leads to a battle over venue in court between the plaintiff and the defendant’s lawyers. A series of cases went up through the Pennsylvania appellate courts and ultimately was decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court regarding venue decisions. This case is known as Cheeseman v Lethal Exterminator, Inc.
What is the Cheeseman Standard?
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that a defendant’s petition to transfer the venue should not be granted unless the defendant demonstrates that the plaintiff’s selected venue “is oppressive and vexatious to the defendant.” This requires a defendant to prove a “heavy burden” exists on the defendant that was posed by the plaintiff’s chosen forum.
This decision helped plaintiffs have their cases heard in counties of their choice and preference. However, it also allowed for an important counterbalance where some selected forums are duly oppressive or inconvenient to a defendant.
Were You Injured in a Personal Injury Accident in Pennsylvania? Ask Us For Help
Our personal injury lawyers in Philadelphia, PA, have over 60 years of experience representing and protecting the rights of plaintiffs throughout the state. We have helped victims and families recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and for pain and suffering. We have fought against some of the largest insurance carriers and law firms in Pennsylvania, if not in the entire United States. If you or a loved one were seriously injured due to another’s intentional or unintentional actions or inactions, ask for a FREE consultation by dialing (215) 561-3600 or send us a private and confidential message through our “contact us” box available here.