Texas is comprised of 254 counties. A personal injury lawsuit or other types of commercial litigation filed in the state courts of Texas must be brought in one of those counties. The question is: which county?
In each county, there is at least one district court that the Legislature has given the power to hear and resolve civil disputes. Since some counties have larger populations, the Legislature has created multiple district courts in those larger counties. As of September 1, 2013, there are 457 district courts across Texas.
Similarly, each county has its own county court. The Texas Constitution created each of those county courts, and therefore, they are typically known as “constitutional county courts.” The Legislature has been authorized to create additional county courts where such courts are needed. There are 238 of these “county courts at law,” in nearly 90 Texas counties.*
At the beginning of any personal injury lawsuit or other types of civil litigation, attorneys make decisions about where to file the case. That decision concerns what the venue for the lawsuit will be. Venue, quite simply, refers to the proper place for a lawsuit to be filed. In Texas practice, the Plaintiff is always given the first choice to select a venue for the action. The question of venue is a question of which county the case will proceed, which is determined by Texas statutes.
In some cases, the choice will be very easy. Texas has a number of statutes that require that specific kinds of cases be filed in particular counties. The statutes that govern those cases are called “mandatory venue” statutes. For instance, there is a mandatory venue statute that requires that a lawsuit seeking to recover real property must be brought in the county where that land is located. A lawsuit against a county must be brought in the county itself. And a lawsuit against state agencies or the heads of departments of the state government must be brought in Travis County, where the state capital is.** Those are merely examples; there are a substantial number of mandatory venue statues in Texas.
In some other cases, particularly in commercial lawsuits, the venue of action may be a matter that is included in the terms of a contract between the parties.
But other cases involve more options.
Where there is no mandatory venue statute for a kind of action – which is generally the case in the typical personal injury action – a statute called the general venue statute applies. The general venue statute gives a party some options in deciding where to file a lawsuit. It allows the plaintiff to choose between two basic options – (1) in the county where the conduct that created the claim occurred; or (2) the county where a defendant resides (or where a company has its principal place of business in Texas). If there is no Texas county that meets either of those requirements, the suit can be brought in the county where the plaintiff resided when the claim arose.
Additionally, there are a number of permissive venue statutes, which allow a claimant a number of choices in selecting venue in specific kinds of cases. For example, where a plaintiff claims that the manufacturer of a consumer product breached a warranty and caused an injury, venue is proper not just where the breach and injury occurred, and not just where the manufacturer has its principal place of business in Texas, but also where the plaintiff resides. A handful of other statutes that allow plaintiffs those types of venue choices.***
Where there are several choices available, there are a number of strategic choices that go into the decision about where your attorney will file a lawsuit. And even once those strategies have been considered and the choice has been made, other parties in the lawsuit can attempt to have the case transferred to another venue for a number of reasons. But where the plaintiffs and their attorneys have chosen a county of proper venue for their case, the likelihood of a transfer from that venue is relatively small.
WATTS GUERRA LLP
Four Dominion Drive, Bldg. Three, Suite 100
San Antonio, Texas 78257
Phone: (210) 447-0500