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Perry County only preferred venue for wage suit

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In an issue with no clear precedent regarding statutory interpretation with respect to the Wage Claims Act, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that a trial court didn’t err in concluding Perry County was the proper venue for a suit filed by the Commissioner of Labor under the act.

In Commissioner of Labor on the Relation of Vincent and Antimo Scialdone v. An Island, LLC, No. 49A05-1011-PL-777, the Commissioner of Labor, on relation of Vincent and Antimo Scialdone, filed a suit under the Wage Claims Act in Marion County for unpaid wages allegedly due to the Scialdones from their previous employer, An Island LLC. The trial court granted Island’s motion to dismiss for improver venue and ordered the case transferred to Perry County, where Island is located.

On interlocutory appeal, the Scialdones argued that Marion County is also a preferred venue under Indiana Code Section 22-2-9-4. The statue applies Section 22-2-5-2, part of the Wage Payments Act, to the initiation of civil wage claims action by the attorney general or a designee thereof. I.C. Section 22-2-5-2 allows damages for unpaid wages to "be recovered in any court having jurisdiction of a suit to recover the amount due to such  employee."

The Scialdones claimed this section creates preferred venue in any Indiana court with jurisdiction over actions for unpaid wage claims, whether those actions are brought by the Indiana Attorney General or by a designated private attorney. They also argued that I.C. sections 22-2-9-4 and 22-2-5-2 make any trial court a preferred venue because Trial Rule 75(A)(8) designates as a preferred venue any county in which a statutory cause of action may proceed.

“While we recognize the problematic relationship between the language of section 22-2-5-2 when taken together with Trial Rule 75(A)(8), we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it granted Island’s motion to dismiss and ordered venue transferred to Perry County,” wrote Judge L. Mark Bailey. “Section 22-2-5-2 allows recovery of wage claims in any county with jurisdiction over the suit, but this is not the same as a statute designating venue in a particular county. It instead reflects the principle of Indiana Trial Rule 75 where preferred venue does not exist, which allows a plaintiff to pursue a claim in any venue in those situations where there is no preferred venue for the action.”

The Scialdones don’t live in Marion County and Island is located in Perry County. Without any facts establishing Marion County as a preferred venue for this case, Perry County is the only preferred venue under Trial Rule 75(A)(1), wrote the judge.

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