A lot of folks are planning vacations out of their home states this spring and summer. Some of those people are going to get injured right in their own hotel rooms. If you're among the unlucky ones and decide that you have to sue in order to recover for your injuries, one of the first questions you'll have to answer is where you can sue. Here's what you need to know about filing a lawsuit against a hotel in a different state.
Not Every Court Can Hear Every Claim
A court has to have what is known as both subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction in order to hear a lawsuit. Jurisdiction refers to the ability of the court's authority to make a legally binding decision over the case. Without it, the court cannot compel any parties involved in the lawsuit to comply with its orders.
Most personal injury lawsuits are heard by state courts, although it is possible to remove a case to federal court if you are asking for a minimum of $75,000 in money damages.
You Have The Burden Of Proving Jurisdiction
If you are injured in your hotel room while out of state, and you are not sure that your case will meet the $75,000 threshold that can remove the case to federal court, you will probably have two choices:
- Sue the hotel in the state that you were in while on vacation.
- Try to establish that the hotel has enough "minimal contact" with your state to grant the court in your state jurisdiction over the case.
Essentially, you have to prove the fairness of holding the hotel accountable to the authority and laws of your home state. You usually have to show that the hotel has at least engaged in some business activity within your state in order to meet that requirement. That may or may not be possible, depending on the circumstances of your case.
For example, if the hotel advertised in your state on television or in magazines, that could be enough to show minimal contact and trigger what's known as the "long-arm" statutes that allow one state to hear a case that arises from an incident in another state.
However, if you researched hotels along your travel route online and picked the hotel that way, you may be obligated to file your lawsuit out of state instead.
Jurisdiction can be a very contentious part of a personal injury lawsuit. Usually, there are significant financial benefits to having the case heard in your own home state's court because you don't have to worry about traveling back and forth to another state for depositions, attorney visits, or court dates. Many people also feel that their own state's court is more likely to give them a better settlement against an out-of-state company. If you think that you may have to file a personal injury lawsuit against an out-of-state hotel, contact a firm like Tiefenthaler Law Office right away because jurisdictional issues have to be addressed quickly. Otherwise, you can end up losing your lawsuit simply because the lawsuit was filed in the wrong place!