The facts: Plaintiff Doe presently lives in Carroll County, and his fire damaged home was also in Carroll County. Defendant Insurance Company has a claims office in Madison County. Defendant Agent resides in Carroll County, has his principal place of business in Carroll County, but also has a satellite office in Madison County. Plaintiff Doe brought suit against the Defendants for negligence, breach of contract, and violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act in Madison County.
The question: Is venue appropriate in Madison County in light of the general venue rule that suit must be filed in the common county of residence?
The answer: Suit must be brought in Carroll County, right? Wrong. According to a very recent ruling by Chancellor Jimmy Butler (and the Tennessee Code), venue is appropriate in Madison County. Although the general rule is that suit must be brought in the common county of residence, the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act has a special venue statute (T.C.A. 47-18-109) that trumps the general venue rules. Under the TCPA’s special venue provision, suit can be brought in the county where the defendant resides, where he has his principal place of business, or the county in which he transacts or has transacted business. Under these facts, because the agent has a satellite office in Madison County, Madison County is a proper venue even though the plaintiff and the agent both live in Carroll County, the alleged negligence occurred in Carroll County, and the the insured home was in Carroll County.
The TCPA’s special venue statute can be an effective weapon in the right case, and practitioners should be aware of the options for venue that it might afford. The right judge, or the right jury pool, can obviously make a huge difference in some cases.
Full disclosure – The above facts outline the facts of a real case I am handling. To their credit, the defendant agent and his attorney, disagree with the Chancellor Butler’s decision and may seek an interlocutory appeal. Although I don’t anticipate that the result will change in light of the plain language of the TCPA, I’ll be sure to post any contrary rulings.