Alabama Workers' Comp Blawg

  • 08
  • Aug
  • 2014

Principal Doing Business in Alabama County Does not Mean Venue is Proper Against its Agent

In Ex Parte Diamond Scaffold Services Group, Inc., the employee filed suit for workers’ comp benefits in Washington County, Alabama. Diamond objected asserting that Washington County was not a proper venue since the accident occurred in Mobile County and it did not conduct business in Washington County. In support of its request that the case be transferred to Mobile County, Diamond submitted evidence that the company was doing work as a subcontractor for ThyssenKrupp, and, although ThyssenKrupp did business in both Washington and Mobile County, the accident occurred in Mobile County.

The employee responded with evidence that ThyssenKrupp did business in Washington County, but the employee did not present any evidence indicating that Diamond also did business in Washington County. In any event, the trial court denied Diamond’s change of venue request. Diamond then filed a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus asking that the trial court’s order be set aside and for the case to be transferred to Mobile County.

The Appeals Court noted that when a defendant is a corporation, like Diamond, venue is proper in the county where the accident occurred, where the defendant’s principal office is located, or where the plaintiff resides if the defendant conducts business in that county. The Appeals Court noted that the plaintiff presented no evidence to the trial court that Diamond was conducting business in Washington County, and it was undisputed that the accident occurred in Mobile County. Although the plaintiff pointed out that ThyssenKrupp conducted business in Washington County, the Appeals Court noted that Diamond was the only defendant in the lawsuit, and therefore, the locations where ThyssenKrupp did business was irrelevant. The Court stated that Diamond was an agent of ThyssenKrupp, and held that it was shown no authority which would allow an action against an agent in any county where its principal does business. The Court noted that such a rule could yield shocking results. Specifically, the Court explained that ThyssennKrupp was an international corporation doing business at locations throughout the world, and it would make no sense to hold that an agent such as Diamond, which does business only in one county, might be subject to being sued anywhere its principal does business.

The Appeals Court ruled that there was nothing in the record which would allow the case to proceed against Diamond in Washington County, and ordered the trial court to transfer the case to Mobile County. In effect, employers who are subcontractors for larger companies are not automatically subject to suit in every county where the larger companies’ do business.

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About the Author

This blog post was written by Trey Cotney, Esq., of Fish Nelson & Holden LLC, a law firm dedicated to representing employers, self-insured employers and insurance carriers in workers’ compensation matters. Fish Nelson & Holden is a member of The National Workers’ Compensation Network (NWCDN). If you have any questions about this article or Alabama workers’ compensation issues in general, please feel free to contact the author at tcotney@fishnelson.com or any firm member at 205-332-3430.

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