How Do I Know Which Court Will Handle My Case?

One of the most important considerations when filing a lawsuit is which court can hear your case. There are some questions every plaintiff likely has—Do I file in the state where I live, the state where I was injured, or the state where the manufacturer is located? Do I file in a state court or in federal court? Will my case be heard by itself or with other plaintiffs who share my injury? The following discussion will help you determine which court can handle your case.

State v. Federal Jurisdiction

State courts generally hear cases dealing with violations of a state law. This often includes most criminal cases, personal injury, or product liability claims. Similarly, federal courts generally handle cases dealing with violations of federal laws or the U.S. Constitution. Federal courts can also hear cases about matters of state law if the plaintiff and defendant are from different states (or if the defendant is a foreign national), and the plaintiff is seeking at least $75,000 in damages.

In Which State Should I File?

Regardless of whether a lawsuit is filed in state or federal court, a plaintiff must decide where to file the case. It’s important to get the location of the court right because filing in the wrong location can mean your case could be delayed or even barred from being heard at all. A plaintiff may file a suit based on the following considerations:

  • Where the manufacturer is located—a state or federal court can hear cases related to state residents or businesses registered in that state.
  • Where the plaintiff lives—a court can hear a case in the plaintiff’s state, but only if the manufacturer conducts a certain amount of business in that state or has some minimum contacts there.
  • Where the injury happened—a court in the state where the injury occurred may hear the case. However, if the manufacturer doesn’t conduct any business in the state where the injury occurred then a court in that state doesn’t have the power hear the case.

Choosing the Right Court

As of 2013, over 15,000 lawsuits had been filed by (or on behalf of) women injured by Yaz and other contraceptives containing drospirenone. Many have been filed in federal courts since those courts have jurisdiction over foreign defendants, and Bayer, the manufacturer of Yaz, is headquartered in Germany. All Yaz lawsuits in federal courts will be initially heard in a federal court in Illinois, regardless of the state they were first filed in. This is a process called Multidistrict Litigation, and it helps speed up the pretrial proceedings.

Many other cases have been filed in state court, most notably in Pennsylvania where Bayer has its North American headquarters. All Yaz lawsuits filed in that state’s courts have likewise been consolidated in a single court in Philadelphia to expedite the process before each case heads to trial. You should consult with an attorney to determine which court would be appropriate for your case.