The Importance of Venue in Litigation
While venue may not be one of the most exciting legal topics to discuss, its importance on litigation cannot be understated. Venue can influence a case throughout all stages of litigation in many ways and can have a significant impact on the value of a case.
First, in a jury trial, venue determines the jurors that will ultimately decide a case. Certain venues in Illinois, such as Cook County or Madison County, are nationally known for being areas in which high verdicts have been awarded. Depending on the facts of the case and the parties involved, there may be great advantage or disadvantage in a case being filed in the "home base" of one of the parties involved. Second, venue can have an obvious effect on the convenience and expense associated with litigating a case. Litigation that occurs far from a business's primary location may be very expensive to that business in terms of time, money, and effort.
Where Does Illinois Law Require A Lawsuit To Be Filed?
In Illinois, the Code of Civil Procedure sets requirements for where a lawsuit must be filed. Venue is controlled by Section 2-101 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/2-101, which provides that:
Every action must be commenced (1) in the county of residence of any defendant who is joined in good faith and with probable cause for the purpose of obtaining a judgment against him or her and not solely for the purpose of fixing venue in that county, or (2) in the county in which the transaction or some part thereof occurred out of which the cause of action arose. 735 ILCS 5/2-101.
In determining venue, a corporation is considered a resident of any county in which it has its registered office or other office or is doing business. 735 ILCS 5/2-102(a). A partnership sued in its firm name is a resident of any county in which any partner resides or in which the partnership has an office or is doing business. 735 ILCS 5/2-102(b).
In order for a corporation or partnership to be "doing business" of a character sufficient to satisfy the venue statute, the corporation or partnership must be conducting its usual and customary business within the county in which the action is commenced, at the time the action is commenced. Weaver v. Midwest Towing, Inc., 116 Ill. 2d 279 (1987); Stambaugh v. International Harvester Co., 102 Ill. 2d 250 (1984).
For purposes of venue, a party's residence is determined at the time suit was filed rather than when process of service was made or when the accident arose. Wilson v. Central Illinois Public Service Co., 165 Ill. App. 3d 533, 537 (5th Dist. 1988).
Methods for Changing Venue
Illinois provide defendants options for attempting to change venue. There are two primary options under Illinois law: (1) defendant can file a motion to transfer venue based on the venue being improper under Illinois law; or (2) defendant can file a motion to transfer based on forum non conveniens, asking the court to transfer the matter for convenience reasons.
Under Section 2-104 of the Code of Civil Procedure, a defendant has the option of moving to transfer the case to a proper venue. Under this section, a defendant waives its right to move for transfer based on improper venue if the motion is not made on or before the date upon which the defendant is required to plead or within any further time that may be granted to answer or otherwise move with respect to Complaint. 735 ILCS 5/2-104(b). Thus, it is crucial to determine if venue is proper as soon as possible.
Second, if venue is technically proper under Section 2-101, but is inconvenient, the defendant can request pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 187 that a case be transferred for reasons of convenience. This doctrine is known as forum non conveniens. In considering such a motion, the court weighs several public and private interest factors, such as the convenience for witnesses, the location of pertinent evidence, the interest of the citizens of the venue in deciding the case, and the congestion of the court docket. A motion filed on forum non conveniens grounds must be filed within 90 days after the last day allowed for that defendant's answer.
The effect of venue on a lawsuit is often underappreciated. Because of the importance of venue on litigation, it is crucial for a business looking to file a law suit to discuss the optimal venue with counsel prior to the commencement of litigation. On the other hand, for a business that has been sued, it is equally as important to discuss the effect that the chosen venue may have on the case with counsel, and to consider options for moving venue, if necessary.