Where to File a Lawsuit

Kyle B. Blowers

Author: Kyle B. Blowers

POST DATE: 2.28.20
Ccha  Litigation

For those unaccustomed to legal procedure, preparing and filing a civil lawsuit in Indiana state court is often a daunting and intimidating task. There are many important aspects to consider when preparing a civil lawsuit even a small claims lawsuit. A crucial component in preparing a lawsuit is selecting the proper venue in which to file the lawsuit. This means choosing the proper county to file the lawsuit. In legalese, the proper or most convenient location for a trial or case is called venue. It is certainly reasonable for a plaintiff to wish to file the lawsuit in the county most convenient to him or her. This is especially true if the plaintiff lives in Indianapolis (Marion County) and the defendant lives in Fort Wayne (Allen County) or Evansville (Vanderburgh County). While a plaintiff may file a lawsuit in any county he or she desires, there are certain federal, state, and small claims requirements and rules for proper venue selection and consequences to filing the lawsuit in an improper venue.

Law cases

Selecting a Venue

In Indiana, the requirements of selecting proper venue for a given lawsuit are established under Indiana Trial Rule 75. In general, Indiana Trial Rule 75(A) states that “any case may be venued, commenced and decided in any court in any county….” However, Indiana Trial Rule 75(A) also provides for preferred venue in certain counties depending upon the facts of the case. Preferred venue means one county may be more appropriate for the lawsuit to be filed in than another county. More specifically, the county where a defendant lives or where an accident occurred may be the preferred venue for the lawsuit. Indiana Trial Rule 75(A)(1)-(10) sets forth the requirements where preferred venue lies based upon the facts of a case.

Venue Rules

In many lawsuits, preferred venue is often the county where the greater percentage of defendants lives or, if there is only one defendant, then the county where the defendant lives. Of note, under Indiana Trial Rule 75(A)(10), only when the requirements of subsections (1) - (9) are not met or where the defendant is not a resident of Indiana or a non-resident business without an appointed Indiana agent, does preferred venue exist in the county where the plaintiff lives.

In addition to the venue rules under Indiana Trial Rule 75 there are also venue rules for lawsuits filed in Indiana small claims court. Venue rules for small claims court are more narrowly constructed and more limited. In a small claims court case, a case must be filed in the county “where the transaction or occurrence took place, where the obligation was incurred or is to be performed, or where a defendant resides or is employed at the time the complaint is filed.” Indiana Small Claims Rule 12 (A)(1). Special attention must be paid to the venue rules of Marion County Small Claims Courts which have been amended and revised in recent years.

As Marion County is divided into nine townships each with its own small claims court, Marion County small claims cases must be filed in the “township where the obligation was incurred or is to be performed, or where a defendant resides or is employed at the time the complaint is filed.” Indiana Small Claims Rule 12 (A)(2). Marion County small claims cases involving landlord/tenant disputes must be filed in the township where the real estate is located. Indiana Small Claims Rule 12 (A)(3).

Federal Venue Requirements

While venue rules exist for filers at the state level and in small claims court, there are also federal venue requirements for certain types of cases. For example, debt collectors are required to follow the venue rules of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Under 15 U.S. Code 1692i, a debt collector is required to bring any legal action against a consumer in the judicial district where the consumer signed the subject contract or where the consumer is currently residing when the lawsuit is filed. 15 U.S. Code 1692i also requires that a legal action to enforce an interest in property be brought in the judicial district where the property is located. As noted above, Marion County townships are considered judicial districts for purposes of venue.

Consequences for Filing a Lawsuit in an Improper Venue

The various venue rules previously described apply, in most instances, to attorneys and non-attorneys alike. There are consequences for filing a lawsuit in an improper venue. One such consequence is that the lawsuit may be dismissed for lack of proper venue. This may cause the plaintiff to incur additional legal fees and court costs in refiling the lawsuit in the proper venue. Additionally, refiling a lawsuit causes time delay for the plaintiff in proceeding with the claim. Another consequence of improper venue is that a defendant may request the lawsuit be transferred to the county of preferred venue. Again, this type of request causes additional legal costs and time delay in proceeding with the lawsuit.

Indiana small claims court rules provide even further requirements in addressing issues of improper venue. Indiana Small Claims Rule 12(B) requires the court to act on its own motion for correct venue where a lawsuit is filed in an improper venue. Attorneys are also bound by ethical constraints and considerations with respect to filing lawsuits in an improper venue. Attorneys may not intentionally file a lawsuit in an improper venue for the purpose of increasing the chances of a default judgment against a defendant because the distant venue creates a burden to the defendant in defending the lawsuit. Lastly, debt collectors are subject to certain statutory penalties and damage claims for a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in filing a lawsuit in an improper venue.

Determining proper venue may be a complicated task with various consequences to a filer for filing a lawsuit in the wrong venue. If you have questions or concerns regarding how best to address or defend your lawsuit, then please do not hesitate to contact Kyle Blowers or any other of the attorneys at CCHA.