Legal Malpractice: Who Do I Call?

Where Should I Pursue My Legal Malpractice Claim?


In law, where you file a lawsuit can be just as important as what you file within the lawsuit. This legal concept is called venue. Venue is the “where” consideration involved in a lawsuit.


Venue is typically determined by who is bringing the action and what that cause of action consists of. “Venue” means the parish where an action may be properly brought and tried under the rules regulating the subject.


In a legal malpractice action, venue is proper where the wrongful conduct occurred. A common venue example for legal malpractice is when your claim prescribed in Rapides parish, but the office of your former attorney is in East Baton Rouge parish. In this scenario, the correct venue to bring the legal malpractice claim is in East Baton Rouge Parish because that is the parish where the alleged wrongdoing in legal representation took place.


Why is venue so important?


You may have a valid claim but if you file it within the wrong jurisdiction (parish), then this can cause delays in the legal process. Improper venue is a procedural exception that can be used as a means of declining the jurisdiction of a particular court to hear your claim. If the delay that will undoubtedly occur from your former attorney filing your claim in the wrong venue leads to the action prescribing, then you may have a valid claim.


Louisiana statutes provide that venue for an action against an individual who is domiciled in this state is the parish of domicile. An exception provides, “An action for the recovery of damages for an offense may be brought in the parish where the wrongful conduct occurred, or in the parish where the damages were sustained.”


Louisiana Cases That Illustrate The Concept of Venue

Here are a few examples:

1. In Belwise Aquaculture Systems, Inc. v. Lemke, a negligently drafted petition supported venue in the parish of the attorney’s office, instead of the initial place of filing, because that is where the conduct occurred.
2. Along that same line of thinking, the court in Johnson v. Tschirn found that an attorney’s decision not to raise a defense provides for venue at the lawyer’s domicile.
3. On the other hand, the Chambers v. LeBlanc court found that an attorney’s failure to file papers in a different venue supports venue in the parish where the filing should have occurred
4. Finally, in Land v. Vidrine, the court found that if a former client seeks relief in the wrong venue in a legal malpractice claim, peremption applies if the claim was not lodged or returned to the proper forum within the one-year peremptive period.


It should, of course, be noted that the facts of your particular circumstance are determinative of which one of these examples might apply.


Causation and Jurisdiction


Importantly, clients have to establish that the selection of the venue by the former attorney caused damage, whichwould have been avoided in another venue. This causation can’t be speculative. If the incorrect selection of venue caused the loss of a remedy, such as the claim being barred by prescription, then causation is not speculative.


Finally, an action must be filed in a court that has jurisdiction. If there are multiple courts that have jurisdiction, then the attorney may be able to select among those courts that have venue. In that situation, the attorney’s initial decision in selecting the appropriate court in which to institute the action is likely one of strategy. This means that an error may be the result of a judgmental decision. If that error is one of law and results from negligence, the attorney can be liable for any damages.


Venue is a fundamental legal concept that has the potential to make or break your case. Whaley Law Firm has the experience to guide you through this essential aspect of legal representation.



Additional Sources:

Belwise Aquaculture Systems, Inc. v. Lemke, 904 So.2d 940 (La. Ct. App. 3d Cir. 2005), writ denied, 922 So.2d 547 (La. 2006).


Chambers v. LeBlanc, 598 So.2d 337 (La. 1992); Clarendon Nat. Ins. Co. v. Carter, 902 So.2d 1142 (La. Ct. App. 2d Cir. 2005), writ denied, 922 So.2d 544 (La. 2006).


Johnson v. Tschirn, 635 So.2d 254 (La. Ct. App. 4th Cir. 1994), writ denied, 642 So.2d 1300 (La. 1994).


Land v. Vidrine, 10-1342, pp. 9-10 (La. 3/15/11), 62 So.3d 36, 42.


Ronald E. Mallen, 4 Legal Malpractice §33:56 (2019 ed.)


Ronald E. Mallen, 4 Legal Malpractice §33:57 (2019 ed.)


Ronald E. Mallen, 4 Legal Malpractice §37:37 (2019 ed.)