There's little not to love if you, as plaintiff, can manage to have your case heard in "judicial cesspool" West Virginia.
But, that "if" just got more iffy, at least for one Ohio plaintiff. The WV Supreme Court ruled against this kind of forum-shopping. As all us lead paint watchers know, it was highly strategic forum-shopping which landed the landmark nine-year lead paint public nuisance litigation in the tiny state of Rhode Island.
The case tossed by the WV SC involved Frank Savarese from Yorkville, Ohio and an auto accident related to Alabama. The original suit had been filed in OH.
The man's insurance company is Allstate Company, It allegedly, reports John O'Brien in LEGAL NEWSLINE, "failed to make payments for his [plaintiff's] medical treatment. Therefore the plaintiff sued the company for compensatory and punitive damages. The lawyer for the plaintiff was based in Wheeling, WV and the defendant communicated by e-mail with that attorney. On that basis, the out-of-state plaintiff tried to file suit in WV.
In the High Court's ruling, says O'Brien, Justice Brent Benjamin wrote:
"A mere communication to an attorney that a decision has been made without more, cannot confer subject matter jurisdiction. To find differently would put the Defendants in a situation where they would either have to 1) submit to jurisdiction anywhere a claimant hires an attorney simply because they have a duty to communicate with the attorney, or 2) refuse to send correspondence to a claimant's attorney in order to preserve their jurisdictional defenses, but possibly give rise to additional bad faith claims for failure to communicate."
In the case, WV SC Justice Larry Starcher dissented. He reserved the right to file an opinion on his own.
This ruling is a major victory for tort reform and a giant step to turning around the state's anti-business reputation. Just like Mississippi did, WV could reform its judicial system enough to attract industry, both U.S. and foreign. MISS snagged a new Toyota plant.
It's also meaningful to note that the RI SC's own decision in the lead paint public nuisance trial also will discourage - at least indirectly - future forum-shopping. Here is that RI SC ruling overturning the verdict against defendants Sherwin-Williams, NL Industries, and Millennium Holdings Download statev.LeadIndustriesAssoc.,Inc..pdf. This opinion seems to send the signal: Don't even think about dragging out-of-state corporations to RI to have their deep pockets picked. We're too smart for that.