The majority of asbestos cases in Louisiana involve corporate defendants: domestic and foreign corporations responsible for the individual’s exposure to the dangerous chemicals. Claims against corporations are subject to the procedural rules of venue. The venue is determined to be the place in which the injured party may bring their case. This is a very important concept in civil procedure that can have a tremendous impact on a case. Under the general rules of venue:
An action against a domestic corporation (Louisiana corporation) shall be brought in the parish where its registered office is located. Also, an action against a foreign corporation licensed to do business in the state shall be brought in the parish where its designated primary business office is located. An action against a foreign corporation not licensed to do business in Louisiana and without an agent for service shall be brought in the parish of plaintiff’s domicile.”
With multiple defendant corporations, it may be in the injured party’s benefit to show that the defendants are solidary obligors. Solidary Obligors is a term used in Louisiana for parties that share responsibility for a person’s injuries. Proving this relationship makes it easier on the injured party to file claims in the proper court (venue) because they need only show that venue is proper as to one of the defendants. This relieves some of the pressure of ensuring jurisdiction over each defendant corporation to their claim. Many cases can become very complex in arguments over appropriate venue and this doctrine can allow a claimant in Louisiana to litigate in a convenient venue where at least one of the defendants fall in Louisiana.
LSA-C.C.P. art. 41 provides that an action against joint or solidary obligors may be brought in a parish of proper venue, as to any obligor who is made a defendant.
Failing to achieve this party relationship, however, makes the venue selection process more difficult and a reason for courts to dismiss an asbestos case. Nevertheless, figuring out the proper venue for your case is not a one-strike game. Prescription, the “timeframe” by which a party has to file claims for a type of case, is interrupted if the action is commenced in an improper venue. You have the option to refile your case with the correct court without prescription running.
However, keep in mind that the rule mentioned above only applies to parties that have been served. Service involves the process in which a defendant has been made aware of the suit through the correct form of service of process. If you are adding another defendant to your claim, the time limit is not suspended for the new party because they were not properly made aware of the case prior to the case being filed with the improper court.
These issues can be confusing to someone unfamiliar with the Louisiana rules of civil procedure and are the reason why many asbestos cases have been unsuccessful in court. Procedure is a very complex area and it is important to consult with an experienced attorney who knows his way around the complexity of asbestos cases and procedure. Consultation and careful planning with a lawyer can prevent these problems from affecting the future of your asbestos claims.