By: Stephen Hester
The Arkansas Venue Statute of 2015
In 2015, the Arkansas Legislature passed Act 830 of 2015 to Clarify and Reorganize the General Venue Statutes for Civil Actions. Clarification and reorganization of the venue statutes was necessary as a result of the inclusion of a number of venue provisions in the Civil Justice Reform Act of 2003 (“CJRA”) (Act 649 of 2003). The Civil Justice Reform Act of 2003 is the now well-known “tort reform” statute whereby the general assembly abolished joint and several liability and replaced it with several liability.
“The primary purpose of venue statutes is to provide a convenient, logical, and orderly forum for the resolution of disputes.” Hurt – Hoover Investments, LLC v. Fulmer, 2014 Ark. 461; Wright v. Center Point Energy 372 Ark. 330, 276 S.W. 3d 253 (2008).
Until 2003, the basic venue structure in Arkansas was unchanged for more than one hundred years. Absent a statutory provision to the contrary, an action could be brought in any County in which the defendant or one of the several defendants resides or is summoned A.C.A. § 16-60-116(a)(repealed). The Civil Justice Reform Act, however, contained a new default venue provision which applied to all civil actions. A.C.A. § 16-55-213(a).
It allowed a Plaintiff to sue:
- Where the Defendant resides;
- Where a substantial portion of events giving rise to the litigation took place; and
- Where the Plaintiff resides.
A.C.A. § 16-55-213(a) did not expressly repeal the prior venue statutes. As such, prior to Act 830, there was considerable uncertainty regarding the interplay between the new and old venue statutes. Act 830 remedied that uncertainty by repealing certain old statutes and reorganizing the remaining venue statutes into nine consecutively numbered statutes from 16-60-101 through 16-60-109. New Section 16-60-101 is the text of former 16-55-213 with minor changes. This statute will generally cover tort actions. The other eight venue statutes apply to other, specific, types of actions such as actions regarding real property, municipalities, etc.
Therefore, the 2015 venue statute eliminates arguments that the old statute still applied and a case could only be brought where an accident took place or where a defendant resides or could be summoned. It is now clear that a Plaintiff can also sue in his or her home County and the Defendant must travel to defend. If a Plaintiff files suit in the wrong County and the Court determines that venue is improper the relief for the Defendant is transfer to the correct venue.
Stephen Hester focuses on Insurance Defense Litigation, Business and Commercial Litigation and Business Law / Transactions in the Little Rock, Arkansas office.
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