Highest court clarifies jurisdictional issues for personal injury cases

Does it matter which court you file your case in? This Supreme Court holding provides some guidance.

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) recently heard a case that delves into which court can hear a case. The case involves a personal injury issue.

What are personal injury cases?

Personal injury is a niche area of the law. Essentially, these cases involve any type of accident that is the fault of another that results in injury to the victim. Examples can include car accidents, incidents of medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, wrongful death and railroad crashes.

What was this case about?

This case involved individuals that had worked for BNSF railway. The plaintiffs claim that they were injured while working for the railroad company. The injured parties attempted to move forward with their case in Montana. Neither of the injured workers lived in Montana, neither was injured in Montana and the company did not maintain a headquarters in Montana.

The plaintiffs' contend that the case should fall within Montana's jurisdiction since the railroad company was registered in Montana. The railroad company countered that the text of the law in Montana required registration within the state, but also noted that jurisdiction could not be brought based solely on registration. The justices questioned whether the case was brought in Montana because the courts in Montana were viewed as friendly towards the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs countered that there were many of these cases in the state so the courts knew the laws at issue well.

Ultimately, the court ruled in favor of the railroad. The court stated that the railway company can only be sued in Montana if it were "at home" there. Since the company is not incorporated in Montana, does not have a principle place of business in the state and does not "heavily engage in activity" in the state, the plaintiffs cannot sue it in that state.

What does this mean for personal injury cases in Nevada?

Rulings from SCOTUS are precedent throughout the country. That means this ruling does apply in Nevada. Essentially, the holding limits cases for personal injury suits to those that are "at home" in the venue chosen, or the state the case is filed to move forward within. As long as an injured person was injured within or lives within the state that the case is filed, the case will likely move forward without issue.

This case also shows how even things that seem relatively trivial, like which court to file the case in, can play a big role in the progression of the case. As such, it is wise for those who are injured and want to hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligence or wrongdoing seek legal counsel. Your attorney can counsel you in these issues, better ensuring you file in the right venue and that your case can move forward successfully.