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Venue, the Key to Driving Favorable Settlements in Maryland

Maryland plaintiff’s lawyers and defense lawyers are always fighting over venue. Venue in Maryland simply refers to the physical location of the trial. Although it may not seem just, different cases have different values depending on where the lawsuit is brought. Some areas of Maryland have a jury pool which is very conservative while others have a more liberal jury pool. The value of the lawsuit, as opposed to the loss, is drastically affected by venue. The differential in lawsuit value, based upon venue, holds truest in personal injury case. The same case, with the same facts and injuries, is worth substantially less on the Maryland Eastern Shore versus Prince George’s County, for example. We know this because we can track jury verdicts over time and determine a pattern.

A sharp Maryland personal injury lawyer will recognize the importance of venue, recognize the best venue for his client, and file the lawsuit in the best venue for his client. The hard part is often keeping the case in the plaintiff’s venue of choice. Often times a good defense attorney will ask the Judge to move the case to a different venue or court because of inconvenience to the witnesses. This is called a motion for forum non conveniens. I recently had a case involving the wrongful death of a minor which occurred in Carroll County, Maryland. Venue was also proper in Baltimore City because one of several defendants conducted business in Baltimore City. I filled suit in Baltimore City and the defense attorney immediately moved to transfer the case to Carroll County arguing that the trial in Baltimore City would be inconvenient to the witnesses. We won and the value of our lawsuit rose dramatically, even though the facts of the case had not changed.

In that case, the defendants filed their Motion to Transfer Venue pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-327(c), claiming that the appropriate forum is in Carroll County, Maryland under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The Defendants alleged in support of their motion that (1) the Circuit Court for Carroll County would be the most convenient forum for the trial of this case; (2) an evaluation of private interests suggest conducting the trial in Carroll County would be “easy, expeditious and inexpensive”; and (3) “public interests weigh in favor of transferring the matter the Circuit Court for Carroll County[,]” including court congestion, burdens on jury duty, and that the “citizens of Baltimore City have few if any ties to the circumstances surrounding the death.”

Although the Court has discretion to transfer the action to another competent jurisdiction at the Defendants’ request, the Court cannot grant Defendants’ request to transfer unless the Defendants have met their heavy burden of proving that the balance weighs strongly in favor of the Defendants. In its determination, this Court must consider two basic factors: (1) convenience; and (2) the interests of justice. The Court found simply that the defendants failed to meet their burden in proving both factors.

For more information on venue and other important issues affecting the value of personal injury cases in Maryland, please contact us for a complimentary consultation.