Because the venue of a lawsuit may have a significant impact on the outcome of a court case, it is an important consideration for both plaintiff and defendant. A convenient venue makes the already difficult legal process less challenging. Judge and jury predisposition may also vary depending on venue. The effects of the venue are evident throughout the court proceedings.
Jurisdiction vs. Venue
While they are closely related, jurisdiction differs from venue in important ways. Both terms focus on the right to hear a case, but jurisdiction is about the authority that a court exercises over persons, entities, and types of proceedings. Jurisdiction refers to both the content of the suit and the geographical area where the suit is located. For example, subject matter jurisdiction might be limited to civil actions within a specific county. CSR Ltd. v. Link, 925 S.W.2d 591, 594 (Tex. 1996); Tarrant County College District v. Sims, 621 S.W.3d 323, 330 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2021, no pet.). Subject matter jurisdiction may not be changed in a lawsuit; a civil court cannot hear a criminal case, for example.
By contrast, venue usually refers to the location of the case, the county, or a district where the case is filed. It is the locality of the lawsuit, the place where the suit is filed and heard. In re Fox River Real Estate Holdings, Inc., 596 S.W.3d 759, 762 (Tex. 2020) (orig. proceeding). Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §§15.001-15.007. In contrast to jurisdiction, venue may be changed. For that reason, litigants and their counsel should be aware of and proactive about the venue of a lawsuit since its location might affect litigants and court proceedings.
Choosing a Venue
By filing a lawsuit in a particular location, the plaintiff is choosing the venue where the case will be heard, perhaps one that is most convenient to the plaintiff in a place more likely to favor the plaintiff for one reason or another. The defendant therefore has the right to even the playing field by requesting a change of venue. In fact, the rules favor the defendant’s right to challenge the plaintiff’s choice of venue. Tex. Jur. 3, Venue §§ 6-11. In consideration of the defendant’s rights, Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 15.002(a)(1-4) states that lawsuits may be filed
- In the county in which all or a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred;
- In the county of defendant's residence at the time the cause of action accrued if the defendant is a natural person;
- In the county of the defendant's principal office in this state, if the defendant is not a natural person;
- If the other venue subdivisions do not apply, in the county in which the plaintiff resided at the time of the accrual of the cause of action.
If the venue does not meet any or all of those criteria, the defendant may file a motion to transfer venue. Tex. R. Civ. P. 86. The grounds that support a motion to transfer venue are that the county in which the action is pending is not a proper county; an impartial trial cannot be had in the county in which the action is pending; or with the written consent of the parties. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 15.063. If the plaintiff does not deny these grounds, the transfer of venue is accepted. See In re Hannah, 431 S.W.3d 801, 806 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2014, orig. proceeding). Note that none of these grounds focus on jurisdiction, the legal authority of the court to hear the case, because jurisdiction cannot be changed. Hubenak v. San Jacinto Gas Transmission Co., 141 S.W.3d 172, 183 (Tex. 2004).
Even if a defendant has grounds to change venue, the defendant must challenge the venue in the first pleading in response to the lawsuit. Otherwise, the defendant waives the right to change venue. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 15.063. From a practical perspective, the venue must be correct before the merits of the case can be heard, which is the reason for “due order of pleadings,” establishing proper venue with the defendant’s first pleading. Gordon v. Jones, 196 S.W. 3d 376, 383 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2006, no pet.).
Given the critical impact of venue on a lawsuit, both plaintiff and defendant should weigh their options carefully. Advice from a lawyer experienced with litigation will help parties discern whether and how venue might affect them as well as the proper legal response to that venue.
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