If You Are Sued in the Wrong Court

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The sometimes complicated rules as to where you can sue and be sued mean that occasionally people and businesses are sued in the wrong court. If you are served with court papers that list an improper judicial district for the hearing, you have two choices.

  • 1. Show up and go ahead with the case. Although the court has independent authority to transfer a case to a correct court, the judge is likely to go ahead with your trial if both parties show up ready to proceed. Doing this may be a good choice if the court you are sued in is reasonably convenient.
  • 2. Challenge the location in which the case is filed (called "challenging venue"). You can challenge venue by:
  • promptly writing a letter to the court explaining the reasons why you believe the case has been filed in the wrong place, and sending a copy of the letter to all other parties, or
  • showing up on the court date and challenging the location in person. See the sample letter below.

If a court determines that the suit has been filed in the wrong court, it will either dismiss the case or transfer it to a proper court. A dismissal shouldn't be a problem as long as the plaintiff sued reasonably promptly after the loss occurred, because the plaintiff still has plenty of time to refile, with no worries that too much time will have passed. If the defendant challenges venue with a letter but the court rules that, in fact, the suit was brought in the correct court, then the judge will probably delay the hearing for a few days to give the defendant time to make arrangements to appear.

Sample Letter by Defendant Challenging Venue

2100 Coast Drive
Beachtown, FL
December 12, 20xx

Small Claims Court
600 Washington
Tallahassee, FL

Re: Upton vs. Downey
#987 321

Dear Judge:

I am the defendant in this case. Because I have been sued in the wrong court and will be highly inconvenienced if I have to defend myself there, I request that you please dismiss this court action.

My request is based on the fact I live in Beachtown, FL, and the car accident that gave rise to this case occurred in Orange County. The fact that plaintiff later moved to Tallahassee and chose to file suit in your court does not amount to a valid legal reason to have it heard there.

Sincerely,

Fred Downey

by: Ralph Warner

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