February 5, 2019

An “Incidental” Claim Against a Governmental Entity Does Not Make Marion County a Preferred Venue; Scribbles, LLC v. Wedgewood

Category: Indianapolis Law Club | Author: | Share:

Plaintiffs like to be able to choose the court that they get to litigate in, but there are rules governing those kinds of choices. In this case, the plaintiffs tried going around the regular venue rules by seeking a declaratory judgment against a governmental entity in addition to their tort claims. But does this work?

Scribbles operated a day care in Hendricks County. The Wedgewoods (who were also Hendricks County residents) placed their infant in Scribbles. Shortly thereafter, the infant suffered a catastrophic brain injury.

The Wedgewoods sued Scribbles and related entities in Marion County. The complaint also stated a claim for a declaratory judgment against the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA), which asked the court to determine whether the Indiana Medicaid Plan had a lien on Plaintiffs’ recovery and, if so, the amount of the lien.

The FSSA did not respond to the complaint and the other defendants moved to transfer venue to Hendricks County. The trial court refused, and the defendants appealed.

The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that a declaratory judgment on an issue with an “incidental” connection to the claims asserted does not establish a preferred venue.

Here, as in R & D and Salsbery, FSSA has an incidental connection to the subject matter of the litigation, which is insufficient to support preferred venue. Specifically, as in R & D, FSSA played no role in the underlying litigation, which involved an alleged catastrophic brain injury to an infant. Further, the alleged injury occurred in Hendricks County. In addition, all of the Plaintiffs and Defendants resided in or were headquartered in Hendricks County. Under these circumstances, we agree with the Defendants that Marion County is not a preferred venue.

Lesson:

Plaintiffs cannot make Marion County a preferred venue for a lawsuit merely by alleging an incidental claim against a governmental entity.