COA: Venue convenience does not trump precedence

The Indiana Court of Appeals said convenience does not trump precedence and reversed and remanded a transfer of venue that would have taken an auto insurance complaint from Marion to Johnson County.

Michael and Janet Garrison got into an auto accident with Elesha Ford in 2014. In September of 2015 they filed a complaint naming Ford and United Farm Family Mutual Insurance Company as defendants. It was filed in Marion County, but United Farm filed a motion to transfer the venue to Johnson County because that was where Ford lived and where the accident happened. The Garrisons opposed, saying Marion was a county of preferred venue and where Farm Bureau has its principal office. A Marion Superior Court judge granted the transfer, and the Garrisons appealed.

In its decision, the COA said subsection 4 of Trial Rule 75A says a suit should be filed where the principal office is located, which in this case is Marion County. United Farm says a special rule should apply to vehicle collisions, because it is easier to get witnesses, police and jury views there than in the preferred county.

The COA said there can only be one county of preferred venue, and convenience does not trump precedence. “We do not employ a separate rule for the sake of convenience, as Farm Bureau suggests,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote for the panel. “‘The balance of convenience, even if it were an explicit factor, is not sufficient to disturb the plaintiffs’ selection of a forum that meets preferred venue requirements,’” he added, quoting Meridian Mutual Insurance v. Harter, 671 N.E.2d 861, 863 (Ind. 1996.)

The reversal remands the case, Michael and Janet Garrison v Elisha Ford and United Farm Family Mutual Insurance Company, 49A05-15-12-CT-02120, to Marion Superior Court.

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