Sunday, April 27, 2008

Forum Shopping for No-Fault Dollars f/k/a Determining Venue

Tribeca Med., P.C. v Dollar Rent A Car
(NYC Civil, Richmond Co., decided 4/22/2008)

Any competent and honest no-fault litigator would have to admit that certain forums are regarded as being more favorable to medical provider assignees and less friendly to insurers than others. Or sometimes its just a matter of forum conveniens to plaintiff's counsel. Any medical provider litigator who does not at least consider the potential advantage of commencing as many no-fault recovery actions as possible in the most favorable forum would be doing the client a professional disservice.

In Tribeca Med., P.C. v Dollar Rent A Car, 2008 NY Slip Op 50812(U) (NYC Civil Court, Richmond County, decided 4/22/2008), defendant moved to change venue from Richmond County, where plaintiff's counsel's office was located, to Kings County and Queens County where the plaintiff's assignors lived. Although defendant correctly pointed out that NYCCCA § 305(a) provides that if "the plaintiff is an assignee of the cause of action, the original owner of the cause of action shall be deemed the plaintiff for the purpose of determining proper venue", Richmond Civil Court Judge Katherine Levine denied the motion based on NYCCCA § 305(b), which provides that "a corporation...shall be deemed a resident of any county wherein it transacts business, keeps an office, has an agency or is established by law."

Adopting the "more liberal construction that must be accorded to venue rules," Judge Levine ruled that under CCA § 305, there need not be a nexus between the cause of action in issue and the business transacted by the corporation in that particular county. In cases of insurer defendants, proof of the issuance of policies, collection of premiums, and forwarding of invoices and other correspondence has been deemed sufficient "transaction of business" within a county to support venue. Plaintiff submitted only one page from Verizon's Staten Island Yellow Pages and defendant did not address the "transacts business" standard of CCA § 305(b), making it "impossible" for the court to assess whether defendant transacted business in Richmond County. Because the defendant had not carried its burden of establishing that plaintiff's forum choice was improper, the court denied the defendant's motion to change venue.

So it's one thing to venue in Richmond County a matter that arguably should have been brought in Queens or Kings. How proper or fair can it be, however, to venue an Erie County loss with an Erie county assignor, Erie County treatment, an Erie County assignee, and an Erie County IME doctor in Kings County or New York County? What's up with that? Can that be anything other than unabashed forum shopping?

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