The question of jurisdiction comes up when determining which country is the proper venue to file a lawsuit.
In general terms, the lawsuit should be filed in the county in which either the transaction occurred, injury occurred or defendant resides. Usually no consideration will be made as to where plaintiff resides.
Jurisdictional questions are very complex. There are whole treatises on the issue of jurisdictional decisions and motions, but in general, there are two types of jurisdictional questions: peer jurisdictional questions and forum non conveniens jurisdictional questions.
1. Pure Jurisdictional Questions
Pure jurisdictional questions, i.e. what jurisdiction should the lawsuit be filed in, tend to be the simpler of the two types to determine.
If a defendant resides in a particular jurisdiction, the court will usually determine that jurisdiction is proper without a problem. In the absence of some obvious evidence that the defendant was named only to create jurisdiction in that county, the court will usually respect and give preference to the plaintiff’s choice of venue.
2. Forum Non Conveniens Questions
Forum non conveniens issues are much more complex. Forum non conveniens issues usually revolve around the question of which county a case should be filed in when it could be filed in more than one county. Because of the records in the case, where medical treatment was rendered, availability of witnesses, and convenience or inconvenience of the parties to the case, one or more of the parties will argue that the lawsuit would be more convenient to be tried in one county over another.
While the court will usually favor the plaintiff’s choice of venue (i.e. will lean toward the plaintiff’s determination as to what county to file the lawsuit), the court takes into account considerations including availability of witness, distance to be traveled, court discovery, location of any medical or post-incident treatment records, location and type of business records, and the location of where the event occurred.
One of the considerations that the court will make in a death case, for example, is the county in which the plaintiff died. Even if all of the treatment, medical records and witnesses are in County A, if the plaintiff dies in County B, the court will almost always find jurisdiction in County B.
Also, keep in mind that the court is allowed to consider the technological advances of modern day discovery. The court can consider video conferencing, electronic transfer of records and the ease of transportation between various counties when considering questions of venue.
For example, courts will be reluctant to find that the collar counties of Cook County are more convenient than Cook County and will usually not serve as a basis for a transfer in a motion based on forum non conveniens without further evidence. Thus court’s will usually not consider a trip to DuPage County versus Lake County versus Cook County to be of any more particular hardship or long distance in most cases.
In summary, jurisdictional questions tend to be very case specific and can be challenged based upon the individual factors that favor or disfavor transfer to a particular jurisdiction. In general the courts will favor the plaintiff’s choice of forum unless there is a compelling reason to transfer the case from one county to another.