Ask Andy: Where Your Case is Filed Matters. Which County is Better For Your Case

Transcript

Good morning, welcome to ask Andy, this is a daily podcast about personal injury practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I’m Andrew Neuwirth. I wanted to talk to you today about the venue or where you file your case and does it matter? Now this is kind of, you know, more of an inside baseball. Look at things, look at what I do. But I thought maybe some people would be interested in it. And certainly lawyers who are not specifically personal injury practitioners may, you know, be interested to hear what I have to say on the issue. So when your case comes in, we don’t really care too much at first about where it where it happened. You know, we’re just trying to get the client signed up, get the insurance company notified, get the facts down, get any videos, all that stuff. And then, you know, three to six months down the road. We have a better idea of what your case looks like in terms of injuries and hence in terms of value. However, at that point, you start thinking about the venue or where the case is going to be filed because it affects how we look at value. So value of your, you know, shoulder surgery in Montgomery County or in Chester County is different than the value of your shoulder surgery in Philadelphia County, both in my eyes and in the eyes of the insurance companies.

And when we get closer to settlement or mediation. So look, that’s just the way it is. You know, why that is is something we deal with in other podcasts, but the venue is determined by a couple of specific things. First. There are specific rules of civil procedure and laws about where cases can be venues, and primarily it’s where the plaintiff lives, where the that’s where the injured person lives, or where the injury occurred, to where the fall occurred or the accident occurred, or medical malpractice where the surgery occurred. And one other critical way is if it’s a business who caused the injury, then where the business regularly does business. Ok, so that’s mostly the state court rules. So, you know, you may have a case that occurred in Montgomery County that can be you can be filed in Chester County or wherever. But the other distinction that comes up is, you know, could you file in federal court vs. state court? And you can only really file in federal court for very specific purposes. One is you have an out-of-state defendant, so you know you’re hit by a truck that was driven by CVS. And CVS is basically a Rhode Island company that does a lot of business in Pennsylvania. Can you sue CVS in federal court? Yeah. Maybe you could. It just depends.

But you need to have someone from Pennsylvania citizens suing someone from a different state. So, you know, I have a case where we’re suing someone from outside the country. It’s a Canadian company. And, you know, the Canadian company could be sued in state court, but I’ve decided to sue in federal court. Now the question is why would you decide to sue in federal court as opposed to state court? And so this is kind of a venue question, but the short answer is federal court. If you can get in, there is much, much faster. It’s, you know, the federal court judges want their cases to move along. They have a smaller caseload than state court judges and generally the court system track in federal court is, you know, three to six to nine months as opposed to, you know, fifteen months to twenty four months to thirty six months in state court. That’s just kind of the way it is. That’s kind of the the state of play or the ground rules. Things are different during the pandemic, but if you want your case to move at light speed or as quickly as possible, you go to federal court. What are the downsides? So the downsides of federal court are interesting because if you sue in federal court, let’s say you sue in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, that’s my, you know, local federal court.

The Eastern District covers several counties, and remember how I said that you could get different values in different counties? Well, the Eastern District draws from a whole bunch of counties some Philadelphia, some Montgomery County, some Bucks and Berks and Chester. So there’s you’ll get and you have to think about, OK, I’m going to get a broader range of voters from some of these counties. Where traditionally jury verdicts are lower, but I’m also going to get some Philadelphia people mixed in, but I’m also going to get a much faster timeline. So do you want that? Well, it just depends on the case. You know, if you have a very strong case against an out of state or an out of country defendant and you’re pretty confident or I’m pretty confident that I’m going to one win the case for the client. And two, there’s not much decision making over what happens. So someone you know was in, you know, hit by a Canadian national train, and it’s the train’s fault and my guy is terribly injured. That’s a good case in federal court because basically you’re going to get to the decision point, you’re going to get either to settlement or jury trial in a very rapid manner. So some cases makes a lot of sense to do that. Other cases, you don’t want to do that.

And there’s a reason the federal courts are run according to a different set of rules and principles than state court. So federal court in Pennsylvania in the Eastern District has to follow Philadelphia or Pennsylvania law on basic terms like, Well, what’s the law about seatbelts or what’s the law about police reports? Or What’s the law about evidence to a great extent. Federal court will follow rules from Philadelphia, but there are times when federal court will look to other federal courts, and those federal courts are less receptive, in my view, to personal injury cases. Federal courts are meant to handle kind of larger, oftentimes, you know, very complicated questions of national importance or questions of state versus state importance, and they’re less concerned with handling your average everyday personal injury case. So, you know, do you get a less receptive hearing in federal court? Just depends on on, you know, kind of what kind of jury you end up with. But generally, you know, you’re going to get a lower value is upon first impression. So, you know, that’s a consideration. But if your goal is to get your case, if your injury is completed, meaning you had a fracture that’s healed or you’ve got a permanent, you know, whatever it is, you lost an arm and you want your case resolved faster. That case should go to federal court.

If it’s a possibility now, a lot of cases just can’t go to federal court. If you’re hit by a guy down the street and both of you are Pennsylvania residents. You can’t go to federal court. Federal courts only open to cases where there’s someone from out of state. And you know, there’s a lot of kind of law school reasons for that. The basic one is the Canadian company, for example, in my earlier example, doesn’t want to be kind of the victim of kind of home teaming. They don’t want to be victimized because they’re not Philadelphians. So the federal court system allows a foreign state resident or a foreign nation resident to take the case to federal court. And federal court is supposed to be a little less kind of thumb on the scale for the local resident. Even though, you know, I think in reality, as lawyers, we don’t really find that there’s much of a, you know, thumb on the scale for the local resident in any way. But that’s the the whole setup of the federal system is is to avoid a kind of discrimination in a, you know, lawyer’s sense against out of state or out of country residence. So look, that’s the kind of the bottom line is I have cases where, you know, one of the big decisions in the case is where am I going to file this thing? Do I want to file in state court or do I want to file in federal court? The preference in my practice and in my opinion, is always to file in Philadelphia County, the Court of Common Pleas, the state courts.

But there are times when you know, filing it in federal court is going to get you a faster resolution. What happens like, I have a case where I’m filing, you know, I just filed recently where the incident occurred in Berks County. Berks is a fairly conservative jurisdiction in terms of values, so I have the opportunity to file in federal court and I chose to take that because one I’m going to get a mix of jurors from other places besides Berks County, and I’m going to get a very rapid resolution and. The rules allow me to do that. But is it a big decision in the case? Yeah, it’s a big decision. You know, in the grand scheme of things. And then as a lawyer, I’ll tell you how I treat cases in federal court slightly differently than I do in another podcast. All right. So this podcast has been sponsored by my law firm. It’s new law office where a King of Prussia, a personal injury case handling law firm and I hold people accountable. Have a great day. Thanks.