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Florida Supreme Court Abrogates Joint Residency Rule, Gives Plaintiffs Greater Latitude in Selecting Venue

On March 15, the Florida Supreme Court held that a plaintiff suing defendants who reside in different counties is not limited by the “joint residency rule” and can sue in the county of his or her choice. The holding in Brown v. Nagelhout, 2012 WL 851033 (Fla. Mar. 15, 2012) abrogates the 54-year old decision in Enfinger v. Baxley, 96 So. 2d 538 (Fla. 1957) which required plaintiffs suing individual and corporate defendants to bring the cause of action in the county where both defendants reside. By limiting the venue available to the plaintiff under the joint residency rule, the Court stated that the Enfinger holding was “based on a serious interpretive error” that baselessly favored the venue rights of an individual defendant over the plaintiff’s statutory right to select venue under Florida Statute § 47.021.”

In Brown, the plaintiff brought a personal injury action against Kim Nagelhout and Helena Chemical Company, Inc., and CSX Transportation, Inc. The complaint alleged multiple causes of action arising out of an automobile accident between a truck owned by Helena Chemical and operated by Nagelhout, and a truck operated by CSX on which plaintiff was riding. The trucks collided in Pasco County, where both Nagelhout and Helena Chemical resided. Plaintiff brought a cause of action in Broward County. Helena Chemical and Nagelhout filed a motion to dismiss or transfer venue to Pasco County. Relying on Enfinger, the trial court granted the motion. Plaintiff appealed to the Fourth District Court of Appeals, which affirmed the lower court’s decision. Plaintiff subsequently appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

By removing the “extrastatutory restriction on a plaintiff’s right to select venue,” the Court placed importance on the plain meaning and intent of the Florida statutes. In abrogating the joint residency rule, the Court stated that the plain meaning of the statute should control. Florida Statute § 47.011 provides that “actions shall be brought only in the county where the defendant resides, where the cause of action accrued, or where the property in litigation is located.” Although Florida Statute § 47.051 limits corporate residence to one county where the corporation has an office for customary business, Florida Statute § 47.021 permits actions against two or more defendants residing in different counties to be brought in any county where any defendant resides.

Categories: LitigationAppellate Law & PracticeCivil ProcedureTorts
Tags: Florida Supreme CourtJamie A. ColeEdward G. GuedesMichael S. PopokJoseph H. SerotaLaura K. WendellFlorida LegislatureMiami Commercial Litigation AttorneyMiami Commercial Litigation LawyerMatthew H. MandelFort Lauderdale Appellate Law AttorneysMiami Appellate Law AttorneysSouth Florida Appellate Law AttorneysFort Lauderdale LitigatorsMiami LitigatorsSouth Florida LitigatorsFlorida Commercial Litigation LawyerFlorida Litigation AttorneysMiami Litigation AttorneyNegligence
Author(s): Brooke P. Dolara