Where You Sue (or Get Sued) Matters
September 26, 2011 by David Newdorf
Filed under Lit Tip Of The Week:™ Practical Advice For Litigators
You may have a choice of courts in which to file your California personal injury or business claim.
Should you choose state or federal court? Which county or state or judicial district? These choices matter because of differing procedural rules, local procedures, and jury demographics. For example, federal court requires a unanimous jury to reach a verdict (even in a civil case), but only 9 jurors out of 12 are needed to reach a verdict in California state courts. Next to an outright defense verdict, a hung jury is generally the civil defendant’s next best outcome. Since hung juries are more likely in federal court (you only need one hold out juror), a defendant may have a good reason to remove a case from state to federal court.
Defendants benefit from federal court summary judgment procedures.
In U.S. District Court, the shorter notice periods for bringing summary judgment motions generally favor defendants. With four to five weeks from filing to hearing in federal court, plaintiffs may not have a chance to conduct discovery directed at issues and points raised in the motion. In California courts, the opposing party will have at least 60 days before its opposition is due. During this time, the plaintiff may serve written discovery requests and take depositions if needed to shore up the evidence in support of an essential element of plaintiff’s claim. Finally, federal judges have more latitude to grant partial summary judgment concerning discrete issues compared to the narrow grounds for summary adjudication under the California Code of Civil Procedure.
Choosing your jury pool
In state court, jury pools vary from county to county. Rural counties tend to provide more conservative jury pools, which often is reflected in defense verdicts or lower plaintiff’s verdicts. Urban counties generally are more plaintiff-friendly venues. But even within a metropolitan area, jury pools differ from county to county and courthouse to courthouse.
Lawsuit venue rules vary depending on the case
You may have little choice about where to file your action. For example, consumer collection actions can only be filed in the county where the contract was signed or the county where the defendant currently resides. A defendant may have the option to remove a lawsuit to federal court, but the removal petition must be filed within 30 days of service of the complaint. Where there’s a choice, the decision where to file can have a large effect on the ultimate outcome of litigation. Consult with an experienced business or personal injury attorney concerning these strategic decisions. If you are a transactional lawyer, you would be well advised to consult with (or refer your client to) a litigator regarding these strategic litigation calls.
About Newdorf Legal – a California
Business Litigation Law Firm
Newdorf Legal is the go-to small firm for big problems. When business executives and public officials face complex legal challenges, they turn to David Newdorf for advice and representation. The firm’s lawyers have significant experience in the private and public sectors handling high-profile litigation. Newdorf Legal provides business and public entity clients expert advice and representation in:
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Call David Newdorf at (415) 357-1234 (or e-mail to info(at)newdorf.com) for all of your California complex litigation questions.