Deciding Where to Initiate a Lawsuit

Initiate a LawsuitWhen you decide to sue, before you make that first move, you need to think through where you are going to file the lawsuit. Selecting a forum may have a major impact on both the costs and the results of the litigation. In many litigations there is more than one forum in which the lawsuit can be started.

In New York State, it can be brought in the county where the plaintiff lives, the county the plaintiff’s business is in, the county where the performance of the contract was to take place or the county in which the event giving rise to the suit occurred. That doesn’t even take into account the possibility of bringing the lawsuit in federal court in New York State. Under certain circumstances a suit can be brought there. In fact, there are certain lawsuits that may only be brought in federal court, while others, such as a RICO action, can be brought in either the state or federal courts.

Generally speaking, if you want to be the plaintiff, you should think carefully about the forum you select to bring the lawsuit. Obviously, you want to bring the lawsuit in a forum where you, your attorney and your witnesses will be close to that courthouse. It’s also helpful if the attorney you have selected is known in that courthouse. Familiarity with each court’s procedures can be material to the outcome and the cost and expense of a lawsuit.

Bear in mind that if a lawsuit is brought in New York County and all the parties for the plaintiff reside in Nassau County, there will be at least two-to-three hours of additional travel time for each court appearance for the plaintiff, for the plaintiff’s witnesses, as well as the plaintiff’s attorney — plus the cost and expense of parking, tolls and the like — all of which can substantially increase the cost of the litigation.

It is my suggestion that the single most important factor in choosing where to bring a lawsuit is familiarity with the courthouse and personnel, with the cost and expenses a close second.

Want to learn more? Read my other post, Important Considerations Before Launching a Lawsuit and my article, When and Where to Litigate.


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