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Understanding Jurisdiction in Civil Litigation Claims

Jurisdiction is a question of which court should hear your case. In many instances, jurisdiction is clear. In other cases, multiple courts may have jurisdiction and a determination needs to be made which of those multiple courts will be the court of record. Federal courts and state courts both may have jurisdiction. Courts in different states may have jurisdiction. The issue of jurisdiction can be especially complicated when there are multiple accident victims and multiple defendants.

According to the Legal Information Institute, jurisdiction, is the “power of a court to adjudicate cases and issue orders.” Jurisdiction must usually be based one of the following:

  • Personal jurisdiction. The person who is the defendant is present in the state/Illinois or was present when the accident or civil wrong occurred.
  • In rem jurisdiction. The property in dispute, such as a home, is present in the state
  • Subject matter jurisdiction. Here, the courts need to decide if the subject in dispute has a reasonable connection to the state. For example, in a car accident, if the negligent driver lives in Pennsylvania and the accident victim lives in Illinois, then Illinois may have subject matter jurisdiction if the accident happened on an Illinois road.

Jurisdiction factors

The issue of jurisdiction is less complex when there just two individuals such as when two cars collide. The issue of jurisdiction gets more complicated if one or more of the defendants is a corporation. Many corporations have a:

  • A state of incorporation. This is usually done for financial reasons.
  • A principal place of business. This is where their headquarters are. Headquarters may be different from the incorporation site.
  • Different places they do business. These are the states where the corporation has offices. They can also be states where the corporation works with any customers, where the corporation works with vendors, or where the corporation does their marketing. Since most every corporation uses the Internet, which is accessible in every US state, there’s an argument that corporations do business in every state.

Jurisdiction, at its core, is a question of fairness. In considering whether a defendant should be subject to the jurisdiction of an Illinois court, jurisdiction generally requires considering:

  • The burden on the defendant. If the defendant already lives in Illinois, there isn’t a burden to hear the case in Illinois. If the defendant lives in Alaska, then coming to Illinois would be a burden – unless the defendant regularly visits Illinois.
  • The state’s interest in resolving the dispute. For example, if all the victims of an accident live in Illinois, then that favors hearing the case in Illinois.
  • The most efficient way to resolve the dispute. If, for example, there are many different victims and defendants, but Illinois is the most central location, that favors hearing the case in Illinois.

Jurisdiction questions get more complicated if there are multiple plaintiffs and/or multiple defendants. If there are hundreds or thousands of victims, then a class-action may be required – which complicates the question of jurisdiction even further.

At Gainsberg Law, Chicago personal injury lawyer, Neal S. Gainsberg understands the reasons why the choice of jurisdiction is critical to the success of your case. The correct court makes it easier for victims to physical get to the courthouse. The correct court makes it easier for your friends and relative witnesses to testify on your behalf. The correct court can mean the difference between judges and juries who have sympathy for victims and forums that have sympathies for defendants. To speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer, call us at 312.600.9585 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment.