Personal Jurisdiction DC Car Accident Lawyer
For a court to make a legally valid decision, it must have two types of jurisdiction: personal jurisdiction, and subject matter jurisdiction.
Subject matter jurisdiction is the authority a court has to hear a certain type of case. This varies among federal and state courts. State courts have jurisdiction over most issues; federal courts have limited jurisdiction.
Personal jurisdiction is a court’s jurisdiction over each party in a case. It allows the court to order a party to appear. This can come from the party doing business and/or residing in the state, or having sufficient minimum contacts in the state. For a defendant to have sufficient minimum contacts, he needs some combination of (1) systematic and continuous activity within the forum jurisdiction and (2) a cause of action arising from that activity. International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945).
This is known as the long-arm statute; it is what allows for a court to have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant. Twenty-two years later, the rule was slightly amended. Even if minimum contact exists, the court still must consider certain consequences, like the burden on the defendant and overall efficiency and reasonableness. Asahi Metal Industry Co v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102 (1987).
Personal jurisdiction, unlike subject matter jurisdiction, can be waived.
Let’s look at a case from 2009 to illustrate its importance.
Theodore Harris sued Dr. Jerry Omelon, a Virginia-licensed doctor, in Washington D.C. Mr. Harris called Dr. Omelon to ask for a prescription of Abilify to help treat his bipolar disorder. Dr. Omelon prescribed the drug, calling in the order to a CVS Pharmacy in Washington D.C. Mr. Harris took the prescription, and experienced severe medical complications that led to three surgeries and many hospitalizations. He sued Dr. Omelon, alleging that Dr. Omelon did properly prescribe Abilify nor did he adequately warn Mr. Harris of risks. Dr. Omelon had never practiced medicine in DC. He did not treat Mr. Harris in the District. The case was dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Harris filed a motion to reconsider, writing that “telephone wires to call in a prescription” constitute personal jurisdiction. The court did not agree and issued a final order dismissing the case. Harris v. Omelon, 985 A.2d 1103 (D.C. 2009).
If you’ve been in an accident, and were the victim of negligence or wrongful conduct, the attorneys at Cohen & Cohen can help get you the compensation you deserve, and ensure we file your suit in the correct jurisdiction. Contact us today at 202-955-4529 for a free case evaluation.