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Who You Can Sue in Court May Not be as Important as Where You Can Sue


When you are injured in an accident, one of your first thoughts may be who you can sue—in other words, who are the people or businesses that were negligent, that were responsible for your injuries? Certainly, this is an important question—the only parties liable to compensate you are those that actually did something wrong.

But many people—victims and injury attorneys alike—may give little thought to another question: Where can you sue? In many kinds of cases, your personal injury attorney can’t just go to the neighborhood court and file a lawsuit against a liable defendant.

Why Does it Matter?

Where you can sue makes a big difference to you if you are injured in an accident. If you cannot file your lawsuit in Tennessee, or even in the city or county where you want to sue in Tennessee, you could have problems.

If you have to sue, for example, in another state, your witnesses are all located here, in Tennessee (if you were injured in Tennessee). The attorney that you want to use here in Tennessee, may not be licensed in another state, and even if he or she could get temporarily licensed in whatever state you have to sue, the travel costs and unfamiliarity with other state courts’ procedures can be a real hurdle.

Limitations on Lawsuits in Tennessee Courts

There are a number of reasons why you may not be able to just file your injury lawsuit in a Tennessee court, even if you were injured here in Tennessee.

Sometimes, we sign contracts that limit the places that we can sue. Cruise contracts are notorious for requiring lawsuits to be filed in foreign countries, but we sign many other contracts that may require that we file lawsuits in other states, even if your accident or injury happened here in Tennessee.

Corporate law comes into play as well. The company that was negligent and which caused you injury, may have parent companies that are incorporated in other states. Legal issues arise as to whether those parent companies can be sued in Tennessee, if they don’t directly do business in Tennessee.

Federal law may dictate jurisdiction. For example, Camp Lejeune victims are required to file their lawsuit for injuries caused by contaminated water in North Carolina, no matter where the victim is now located.

Constitutional Minimum Contacts

The United States constitution also requires that a Defendant must anticipate or foresee being sued in whatever state you want to file your lawsuit.

For many Defendants, this is obvious. For example, Ford could make a car anywhere, and anticipate that it could be sued in any state in the nation. If a grocery store has stores in a state, it can anticipate being sued there.

But smaller companies may only make and sell their products, in one state—or even in another country. They may not sell, or anticipate their products being moved, to Tennessee. In those cases, courts may lack the authority (called jurisdiction), to hear a case against that small company in Tennessee.

We can help you determine who is liable for your accident, and where your lawsuit can be brought to help compensate you for your injuries. Call the Knoxville personal injury lawyers at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, today.




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