Principal Office Determines Venue
An organization’s principal office, not the location of its registered agent, is the appropriate preferred venue, a divided Indiana Supreme Court has determined. The ruling affirms one trial court and reverses another, in similar consolidated medical malpractice cases.
In one case, the plaintiff filed a complaint for medical malpractice in Marion County, but some of the defendants in her suit petitioned to transfer venue to Monroe County pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 75(A). Plaintiff argued Marion County was a county of preferred venue because the registered agent of Bloomington Hospital was located there.
In a similar case, the plaintiff filed a Marion County medical malpractice action against IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians, Inc. and others, because of where IU Health’s registered agent was located, but the defendants filed a motion to transfer venue to the county where the alleged malpractice occurred.
Two Indiana Court of Appeals panels were split in their decisions, one concluding Marion County was not the preferred venue under Trial Rule 75(A)(4) and the other that preferred venue did lie in Marion County because the statute conflicted with the trial rule therefore nullifying the statute.
The Indiana Supreme Court found both COA opinions to conflict with one another during oral arguments, and sought to clarify it.
The majority of justices opinion was that a domestic organization’s actual principal office, and not the location of its registered agent, is the appropriate preferred venue. The high court held that the location of the registered agent no longer determines preferred venue for either domestic or foreign corporations in light of new business corporation statutes that define “principal office”.
However, one lone dissenting justice, Justice Geoffrey Slaughter was unable to join the majority opinion “because the better way to effectuate the policy change would be by formally amending trial rules and not reinterpreting them by judicial fiat with retroactive application.” “But until that happens — until we amend our rules to provide for such change — I would continue to follow the understanding of ‘principal office’ that has prevailed for nearly fifty years,” Slaughter wrote. “On this record, that means both plaintiffs should be able to proceed with their respective suits in Marion County.”
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