Legislature Seeks to Clarify Who May File a Lawsuit in West Virginia
In 2017, the United States Supreme Court, in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017) held that a nonresident plaintiff must have a “connection between the forum and the specific claims at issue.” In other words, the nonresident plaintiff must have suffered the harm in the specific jurisdiction in order to bring that claim in the jurisdiction. No longer would a corporation's continuous activity of some sort in a specific state be enough to support a lawsuit in that state unre
lated to the alleged injurious conduct.
In light of this holding, House Bill 4013 seeks to bring West Virginia in line with this holding by amending West Virginia Code § 56-1-1, the venue statute. Specifically, HB4013 provides that “a nonresident of the state may not bring an action in a court of this state unless all or a substantial part of the acts or omissions giving rise to the claim asserted occurred in this state.” A “nonresident” means “any person, whether a citizen of this state or another state, who was domiciled outside the State of West Virginia at the time of the acts or omissions giving rise to the claim asserted.” There are exceptions related to military members.
Despite the clear prohibition, HB4013 provides for a number of exceptions. First, if the nonresident cannot obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant In order for this exception to apply, a plaintiff must provide an affidavit to the Court regarding the inability to obtain jurisdiction over the defendant. Additionally, if the matter is filed against a West Virginia citizen, resident, corporation or other corporate entity, HB4013 would not apply. Finally, in an action where more than one plaintiff is a party, HB4013 provides that each plaintiff must independently establish proper venue consistent with the statute.
HB4013 was introduced on January 12, 2018. On January 22, 2018, it was passed by the House, with 95 members voting “yea”, zero “nays” and five members not voting. The bill is currently pending in the Senate Judiciary committee. To track and read the bill, it may be found at http://www.wvlegislature.gov/Bill_Status/Bills_history.cfm?input=4013&year=2018&sessiontype=RS&btype=bill.