Car Accident Case Dismissed For Improper Venue

car_wrecked_accident_collision-scaledIf you are considering filing a lawsuit, it is essential that you file it in the correct venue. Otherwise, the court may lack authority to hear your claim and will not be able to consider the merits of your case. 

While driving in Terrobonne Parish, Louisiana, Joanna Gilbert had a single car accident on Highway 3011. The accident occurred where the road ended. When she went onto the unpaved pat of the road, she ran off the unpaved area and went into the water. 

Gilbert filed a lawsuit in Iberia Parish, where she lived, against the State of Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (“DOTD”). She alleged the car accident had occurred because of DOTD’s negligence, which resulted in her injuries. Gilbert later added her uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance carrier as a defendant. 

Gilbert argued the inclusion of her insurer made the venue of the Parish of Iberia, where she lived, proper. The DOTD filed a motion arguing venue was improper, which the trial court granted. Gilbert filed an appeal.

On appeal, Gilbert argued the trial court erred in grant DOTD’s motion arguing venue was improper. La. C.C.P. art. 41 defines venue as the parish where a lawsuit can be properly brought and tried. La. R.S. 13:5104 outlines the mandatory venue provisions in lawsuits brought against state agencies, including DOTD. It requires that all lawsuits brought against a state agency or Louisiana itself must be filed in the court where the state capitol is located or in the location where the cause of action arose – here, Terrebonne Parish.

Gilbert filed her lawsuit against DOTD in Iberia Parish, which is where she lived. She claimed that was the appropriate venue, because she later added her uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance carrier as a defendant. DOTD argued the facts and theories of why DOTD was liable in Gilbert’s petition all occurred outside of Iberia Parish. 

Although Gilbert claimed her later addition of her uninsured/underinsured motorist related back to her initial lawsuit, DOTD argued those facts were not the operative facts in the lawsuit. The court agreed with DOTD’s position.

In reviewing the record, the appellate court noted all of DOTD’s acts of purported negligence occurred in Terrebonne Parish. Additionally, DOTD is a state entity covered by La. R.S. 13:5104. Therefore, it was mandatory for Gilbert to file her lawsuit against DOTD in the district court that had jurisdiction in the parish where the events giving rise to the cause of action occurred – here, in Terrebonne Parish. Therefore, the appellate court agreed the trial court had properly granted DOTD’s motion arguing there was improper venue. 

It is important to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who can advise you on the appropriate venue in which to file your lawsuit. This is especially true if there are special venue statutes applicable to your case, such as if you are filing a lawsuit against a state agency. If you do not file your lawsuit in the proper venue, then the court will be unable to consider the merits of your case.

Additional Sources: Joanna Gilbert v. State of Louisiana, through the Department of Transportation and Development

Article Written By Berniard Law Firm

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