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Can the Court Hear My Case? The Matter of Venue

County Courthouse in Missoula, MontanaIf you have a situation in which you have been wronged and you wish to seek legal satisfaction through a lawsuit, there are a number of initial hurdles you must first get past even to have your case heard.  First, the court must have personal jurisdiction over the parties.  Second, the court must have subject matter jurisdiction over the topic.  However, even if these requirements are met, there is still the question of venue.

What is venue?

Simply put, venue is the issue of determining which court should properly hear your case.  If you live in the northwest corner of the state, although the district court in the southeast corner may have subject matter jurisdiction, and although the minimum contacts requirements may have been met—thereby subjecting the parties to the jurisdiction of the state courts—it may be overly burdensome to the parties to require them to travel to the farthest reaches of the state merely to go to court.

In such a situation, the parties will look for the court where venue—or location—is proper.  There are a number of factors that courts consider in determining what is the proper venue.  A typical venue statute may state that venue is proper in the county in which the defendant in the case (the person being sued) either lives or may otherwise be served (such as the county where he or she works).

Why does venue matter?

The venue issue helps ensure that the parties to a case are not overly burdened by being required to travel long distances to court when there is a perfectly acceptable court in their area.  This is especially important in the case of defendants, because a defendant is not the person who decides to initiate a lawsuit in the first place.

Without the protection of a venue requirement, someone could harass another person by filing lawsuits against him or her in far-off courts, requiring him or her to expend a great deal of time and money traveling to these places in order to defend against the lawsuit.  Given that a person can file a lawsuit for virtually any reason he or she wishes, without the venue requirement, it would be easy for someone to harass another person with almost no repercussions.

When you are considering a lawsuit, make sure you have proper venue, or you may be forced to re-file it after the first court dismisses the suit for improper venue.