Personal jurisdiction over a defendant is quite the power, once you understand what it is.
In the article that follows, you’ll learn about the 4 reasons why the requirement of personal jurisdiction over a defendant is so important.
Reasons Why Personal Jurisdiction Is Required (EXPLAINED)
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Introduction to Personal Jurisdiction
Personal jurisdiction is a legal term/concept not well known to people outside of law school or the practice of law.
Personal jurisdiction is the ability of the court in a particular location to make decision impacting a particular defendant.
Personal jurisdiction is the power over a litigant, over a person or a business.
There are a few kinds of personal jurisdiction, known as in personam, in rem, or quasi in rem.
Personal jurisdiction is generally established by a combination of effective service of process along with satisfaction of the applicable statutes in the jurisdiction.
(Service of process means effectively providing the defendant with notice of the pending case and what the case is about).
Personal Jurisdiction vs Venue
Personal jurisdiction is not to be confused with venue, which is the designation of the proper place within the jurisdiction to bring the case.
For example, the State of California might have personal jurisdiction over the parties.
But a court in the city of Los Angeles might be the appropriate venue for the case, while a court in the city of Sacramento might not be the appropriate venue.
Personal Jurisdiction Requirements Deter Forum Shopping
While some cases of action are governed by federal law (meaning the laws are the same in every state in the United States), other causes of action are governed by state laws.
Some of these laws are better for plaintiffs in some states, while better for defendants in others.
This is especially the case as it relates to businesses, as some states are more protective of business interests than others.
Some statues allow plaintiffs to sue for more when they are injured, while others impose severe tort claim limits.
Some states allow punitive damages, while others do not, or only in limited situations.
Personal jurisdiction establishes where the defendant can be sued, and limits the plaintiff to the jurisdictions where personal jurisdiction can be established.
This prevents plaintiffs from suing defendant in certain states just because the statutes are written to be more beneficial to him there.
You could say that personal jurisdiction makes sure that the right laws are applied to resolve the conflict.
Personal Jurisdiction Requirements Reduce Likelihood Of Unfair/Unreasonable Litigation Costs
Depending upon where the case is filed, the defendant may face significant legal expenses simply because of the location.
The defendant’s witnesses may be located far from where the case was filed.
The defendant may have to seek out unknown legal counsel.
The defendant may have to travel extensively to participate in the case.
While the defendant may have to spend a lot of money to defend the case in any event, at least the travel/cost is associated with a place that defendant has either been to, done business in, or has availed himself to in some way.
Personal Jurisdiction Requirements Limit The Reach Of A Powerful Entity
Courts (and judges) are powerful.
In a black robe, a judge can take a man’s freedom from him, give the value of his business to someone else, and change the course of lives.
It is vital that this power is used appropriately.
One of the ways we do this is by limiting the reach of the court (and the people who wield the power) so that it cannot be used abusively.
The limits also help reduce the likelihood that participants (attorneys, plaintiffs, defendants) do not abuse the power that they have during the process.
Limitations like the requirement of personal jurisdiction act as a check on potential abuses of power in the legal system.
Personal Jurisdiction Requirements Provide Certainty To Litigants
People who go about the world, living and doing business, have some certainty over where they can be called to task for their wrongs.
It allows them to make plans to confront those challenges.
For example, let’s say a man driving in California gets into a car accident in California with an individual who also lives in California.
He has a reasonable amount of certainty that if the injured person in the crash decides to sue him, that the lawsuit will be filed in California and not in Delaware.
This way he can consult with a California based personal injury lawyer, and feel confident that any California specific personal injury laws/tort laws will apply in his case.
While a bit complex, the requirement of personal jurisdiction in a case places appropriate and necessary limits on what the parties (and the courts) can do, and gives us guidance for how to go about proceeding with our cases.
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