The ultimate question in a Washington, D.C. personal injury case is whether the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries; however, before a case even reaches a jury, countless other legal issues must be addressed. One issue that frequently comes up, but is often initially overlooked by accident victims, is where a Washington, D.C. personal injury case should be filed.
The general rule is that the plaintiff can file the case in whatever jurisdiction they choose. However, the court where the lawsuit is filed must have jurisdiction over the defendant; otherwise, the court will not have the legal authority to hear the case. In some personal injury cases, such as Washington, D.C. (the “District”) car accident cases, jurisdiction is easily established because the wrongful act occurred within the District. However, other types of cases, can present more complex scenarios. A recent case illustrates the concept of jurisdiction and why it is important where a claim is filed.
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff, who lived in Arkansas, traveled to Louisiana to attend a “tent sale” at a sporting goods store. While the plaintiff was shopping in the tent, she tripped and fell on a rug and broke her arm. The plaintiff filed a premises liability case against the store in her home state of Arkansas.
The store moved to dismiss the case, arguing that Arkansas did not have jurisdiction over the store. The store pointed out that it was incorporated in Louisiana, its principal place of business was in Louisiana, and it never had operated a store in Arkansas.
In support of her claim, the plaintiff argued that Arkansas courts could exercise jurisdiction over the store because the store advertised on television and in print in Arkansas, and that the store held an annual contest awarding a prize to whoever kills the largest deer in Arkansas.
The Court’s Decision
The court determined that Arkansas did not have jurisdiction over the store, and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The court explained that, under recent U.S. Supreme Court case law, to establish that a court has jurisdiction over an out-of-state party, “jurisdiction must arise out of or relate to the defendant’s contacts with the forum state.”
Here, the only contacts that the store had with Arkansas was its in-state advertising and the annual contest. The court explained that neither of these activities was related to the plaintiff’s injuries, and thus, Arkansas courts did not have jurisdiction over the Louisiana-based store.
Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident, or any other type of personal injury accident, the dedicated personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC can help. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we have over 20 years of experience representing injury victims in personal injury claims across Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and know what it takes to succeed on our clients’ behalf. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.