How are Venues for Civil Lawsuits Chosen in Ohio?June 2, 2016 | Amanda R. Yurechko, Esq.
For the simple fact of convenience, most Ohio plaintiffs prefer the court where their case will be tried to be near them. It is frustrating for plaintiffs to ask witnesses to appear at a trial, or to attend a hearing, across the state. However, the plaintiff's preferred trial court is not always an option due to venue requirements as outlined in the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure.
If the defendant is an Ohio resident, or has sufficient contact in Ohio to give Ohio courts jurisdiction, the lawsuit must be filed in a court that meets the state's venue requirements. "Venue" means "the neighborhood, place, or county in which an injury is declared to have been done, or fact declared to have happened."1 Rule 3 governs the venue where a case may be brought and allows a plaintiff to bring a case in any one of 11 places, the most relevant of which are:
- The county in which the defendant resides;
- The county in which the defendant has his or her principal place of business;
- A county in which the defendant conducted activity that gave rise to the claim for relief;
- A county in which a public officer maintains his or her principal office if suit is brought against the officer in the officer's official capacity;
- A county in which the property, or any part of the property, is situated if the subject of the action is real property or tangible personal property;
- The county in which all or part of the claim for relief arose; or, if the claim for relief arose upon a river, other watercourse, or a road, that is the boundary of the state, or of two or more counties, in any county bordering on the river, watercourse, or road, and opposite to the place where the claim for relief arose;
- In actions described in Rule 4.3, in the county where plaintiff resides.
The last option is only available if the defendant resides out of state, but a summons can be served as outlined under Rule 4.3. If none of the 11 options apply the plaintiff can choose the county in which they are located as the venue.2 However, in prior cases, "A county in which the defendant conducted activity that gave rise to the claim for relief," has been interpreted as the county in which payment was due, but not paid, under an account or contract.3
This option can be used as a substitute when there is sufficient evidence to show payment was due on an account or contract at the plaintiff's principal place of business, and that this is where the breach of contract occurred. Invoices, account statements, letters, or other documents, which direct the defendant to make regular payments under the account or contract at the plaintiff's regular place of business, are useful pieces of evidence to help prove the lawsuit should be filed in the county in which the plaintiff's business is located.
However, the nation's Consumer Protection Agency limits available venues in the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. The debt is covered by the act if it is a consumer debt, meaning "any obligation or alleged obligation of a consumer to pay money arising out of a transaction in which the money, property, insurance, or services which are the subject of the transaction are primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, whether or not such obligation has been reduced to judgment."4 Under FDCPA, the only available venues to bring a suit against a consumer are where the consumer lives, where the real estate in question is located, or where the contract at issue was signed.5
While Rule 3 makes it possible to choose a venue convenient for the plaintiff, the rule will not apply in every case. The attorney handling the plaintiff's case will consider other factors, such as the rules and procedures of a certain court, when trying to select the most convenient venue for the client's case.
1 Black's Law Dictionary
2 Ohio Civil Rule 3(B)(12)
3 See Soloman v. Excel Mktg., 114 Ohio App. 3d 20 (2nd Dist., 1996) (decided under former analogous section); First Merit v. Boesel, 2004 Ohio 1875, (Summit County Apr. 14, 2004) (decided under former analogous section);
4 15 U.S.C. 1692(a)(3)-(5).
5 15 U.S.C. 1692i
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