Jurisdiction is a key issue for any personal injury lawsuit. If a certain court does not have jurisdiction, the case cannot proceed. It’s imperative to have a thorough understanding of whatever jurisdictional issues may arise prior to filing the case, as an error could result in a setback that not only wastes time and money, but could result in forever losing the opportunity to bring the case, if the decision falls outside the statute of limitations.
There are three basic types of judicial jurisdiction: Personal, Territorial and Subject Matter. Personal jurisdiction is when a court has authority over a person, regardless of the location. Territorial jurisdiction is authority that is confined to a certain space. Subject matter jurisdiction is when one has legal authority over the subject of the legal questions in the case. When a court has exclusive jurisdiction, it is the only court that can decide the case. If the court has concurrent jurisdiction, one or both parties may try to “forum shop,” to take the case to the court the party presumes may reach the most favorable result.
In the recent Alabama Supreme Court case of Hinrichs v. General Motors of Canada, Ltd., the question was whether the state courts in Alabama had jurisdiction over a foreign automobile manufacturer accused of designing a defective pickup truck seat belt that allegedly failed to restrain a passenger in a rollover car accident. The plaintiff, a German citizen, now suffers quadriplegia as a result of the crash. Plaintiff was in Alabama as a member of the German military who was assigned to Fort Rucker for flight training. Continue reading