On August 6, 2020, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued its opinion in Taylor Construction Company, Inc. v. Superior Mat Company, Inc.
In that opinion, the Court addressed the standards for determining when venue is proper in a particular county.
The facts in that case are not particularly important. Instead, the case provides a good summary of rules governing venue.
“Some credible evidence”
The venue analysis begins with the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint and continues with any supplemental affidavits or other evidence in cognizable form.
“The key is that the plaintiff must present some credible evidence supporting his or her choice of forum.”
If the plaintiff does this, then “the plaintiff’s choice of venue must be given the benefit of reasonable doubt and must be sustained unless in the end there is no credible evidence supporting the factual basis for the claim of venue.”
The “substantial act” requirement.
In Taylor Machinery, the applicable venue statute was Section 11-11-3 which, among other things, permits venue to be placed in a county where a “substantial alleged act or omission occurred.”
The Supreme Court explained that the statute provides no definition of the word “substantial” and that “we have also declined to clearly articulate one over a multitude of cases concerning this statute.”
“In the absence of a statutory definition of a phrase, it must be given its common and ordinary meaning.”
Ultimately, the Court held that “a substantial act then is one that bears a real relevance to the plaintiff’s claim. The plaintiff’s burden to demonstrate credible evidence for a choice of venue is a burden to demonstrate credible evidence of acts by the defendant in the chosen venue that have a real, not incidental, relevance to the plaintiff’s claim.”
On appeal, the court reviews the lower court’s ruling under an abuse of discretion standard. If the lower court’s factual findings are supported by evidence and not manifestly wrong, they should be affirmed.
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