NeuwirthLawCase Matters, For Lawyers

I went to Cornell Law School and in first year civil procedure there was a lot of discussion of the impropriety of forum shopping from the academic perspective.  Fast forward a few decades and forum or venue shopping is a major component of my decision-making on cases.  Our judicial administrators all keep track of how many cases are filed, how many go to trial, how many are defense verdicts and how many plaintiffs’ verdicts.  The actual numbers are combined with our experience and that of our colleagues of what sort of settlement and verdict values to expect in a particular county. For example, Philadelphia is always the preferred venue for filing cases because of its reputation for outsized verdicts against corporations. However, times are changing and the makeup of the Philadelphia jury pool is changing as well.  Nevertheless, the goal is always to find a way to place your case into Philadelphia if you are a plaintiff’s lawyer. Simply put, the insurers will attach a higher value for the identical case in Philadelphia County than they will in Delaware County.

The rules on venue are that you can file suit in any county where one of the parties resides, regularly conducts business, or can be served. So, while usually, one cannot create venue, there are ways to achieve the venue you want if it matters. To my cases, it often matters a lot. For example, a torn rotator cuff with surgery in Philadelphia may be worth $200,000, while the same injury may be valued at $75,000 in Chester County. So, if you are the client, the wrong venue choice by your lawyer may cost you $80,000 (the difference between 2/3 of a settlement number in Chester vs. Philadelphia Counties after reduction for my fee). Are you doing anything wrong by creating venue, as long as you are within the Rules of Civil Procedure? Absolutely not. In fact, in my mind, failing to make a sincere effort to create venue in Philly or the best jurisdiction is not doing your best.

So, how have I created venue? Well, on several occasions, I have had my private investigator track a defendant from their home in the suburban counties to their offices in Philadelphia and then had the defendant served in person in Philadelphia County. And then, tada! You have venue that is really unassailable, though defense counsel may be upset on behalf of their client. My investigator once ran out into traffic and served a person with a Complaint in traffic on Chestnut Street! Those efforts, while fun, have been hampered by the new work from home thing, but those are reasonable efforts in my book to get venue.