Sam is a Georgia resident. He comes to Alabama to shop for some fishing gear. While traveling on Interstate 20, Sam’s vehicle is struck by another driver who entered Sam’s lane of travel and sideswiped him. But rather than getting any medical treatment right away, he drives home to Georgia and goes to the emergency room at his local hospital. All of the medical treatment Sam receives for the injury he sustained in Alabama is obtained in Georgia. Sam decides that in order to be compensated for his injury and medical expenses, he needs to file a lawsuit against the other driver.
Sam needs to know whether he should file suit in Alabama (where the injury occurred) or Georgia (where the medical expenses were incurred). Similarly, the other driver will want to make sure he is in the proper venue for defending the suit that is brought against him.
Alabama has adopted a doctrine called lex loci delicti, which governs where tort actions should be brought. Under this principle, a tort (like the claims of negligence and wantonness that Sam will allege against the other driver) is determined to have occurred where the alleged harm was suffered. See In re Verilink Corp., 405 B.R. 356, 365 (Bankr. N.D. Ala. 2009); Norris v. Taylor, 460 So.2d 151, 152 (Ala.1984). An Alabama court will determine the injured party’s substantive rights according to the laws of the State of Alabama when the injury occurs in Alabama. See Norris, 460 So.2d at 152; Fitts v. Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., 581 So.2d 819, 820, 823 (Ala. 1991).
Under these principles, Alabama is the most appropriate venue for Sam to file his lawsuit, because among other reasons, Alabama law will govern since the injury occurred in Alabama.
If Sam does file suit in Georgia, the other driver can have the case removed to Alabama.
Photo by Chris Yarzab.