Venue (coming from the Latin word venive, meaning to come) is not a commonly used word.
However, if you’re an injured railroader, it’s a word you need to know a little more about as "venue" is the place at which a trial is held and the place from which the jury is drawn.
In FELA - Federal Employers' Liability Act lawsuits, venue is often a hotly contested issue. Defendant railroads desperately seek to convince judges to transfer venue to small, rural, conservative locales where the railroads believe juries return smaller verdicts.
This action of railroads seeking transfer of FELA lawsuits is called 'forum shopping' and has been soundly criticized by some courts.
Section 6 of the FELA (45 U.S.C. §56) provides that an action brought pursuant to the FELA may be brought in a state court or in a district court of the United States where the railroad resides, or where the accident occurred, or where the railroad is doing business.
INJURED RAILROAD EMPLOYEE'S RIGHT TO CHOOSE VENUE
Unfortunately, over the years, the railroads have convinced judges to create exceptions to the clear language of Section 6. It is hard to understand how a court could create an exception to Section 6 which clearly vests in the injured employee the right to choose venue, but the railroads have had real success in their 'forum shopping'.
The primary means used by railroads to thwart employees' rights under Section 6 and transfer venue is the doctrine of forum non conviens. The theory is that courts have a right to control their own docket and if a case is not convenient in the venue of one court for a trial, that court can order the case transferred to another court or venue. What happens in real life is when a railroad offers a judge the opportunity to get a case off its docket by making a motion to transfer it to another county, judges seldom decline.
For all practical purposes, courts have amended Section 6 of the FELA to read that cases may only be brought where the accident occurred, or where the Plaintiff lives (if the railroad is also a resident or doing business there).
With the current administration in Washington (which includes Vice President Dick Cheney who formerly sat on the Board of Directors of the Union Pacific Railroad, and Secretary of the Treasury John Snow who formerly was a CEO of the CSX), venue has become even more of an issue.
Speeches by President Bush and advertisements by big business, in conjunction with the railroads, are played on the radio in conservative venues admonishing potential jurors about "frivolous" lawsuits. If you are an injured railroader, you know there is nothing “frivolous” about your lawsuit.
At Hoey & Farina, we understand that FELA cases are a breed of their own. We know how to protect your venue and other rights specific to FELA lawsuits. If you have any questions about a personal injury, please call us any time at (888) 425-1212.