Virginia code amendments since 2004 limit Plaintiff “venue-shopping” as they align venue options with the common sense view that a lawsuit should be filed where the underlying action occurred.
By: Jim Snyder
If you ask a non-lawyer where the common sense venue would be for bringing a lawsuit, most would tell you the court in the city or county where the action occurred. But in Virginia, there have long been other options. Historically, one focuses on the business activities of a defendant.
Plaintiff attorneys frequently file in traditionally plaintiff-friendly verdicts, regardless of the appropriateness of the forum. If the accident did not happen in the chosen forum and the defendant does not live in the chosen forum, the fall back for plaintiffs is the defendant’s alleged “substantial business activity.” By attacking, what is often, a tenuous link between a case and the forum and the lack of substantial business activity, we can transfer the case into a more conservative venue, immediately driving down the value of the claim.
Until 2004, Virginia Code §8.01-262 provided that a permissible venue in which to file suit was where the defendant regularly conducted affairs or business activity. In addition to where a defendant worked, the most obvious choice here, this led to such inquiries of a defendant as to where they shopped, went to church, visited friends, passed through on the interstate, volunteered or socialized. As a practical matter, the choice a plaintiff had available for forums in which to file suit were greatly expanded through unrelated, often inconsequential, activities.
In 2004, the Code was amended, to change “regularly conducts affairs or business activity” to “regularly conducts substantial business activity.” The signal from the General Assembly was clear – require a greater connection between the defendant and the forum where suit