Modern Practice Considerations in Maritime Personal Injury Litigation: Procedural Weapons for Venue Battles

Choice of forum has probably always been an important consideration in maritime personal injury litigation. It has long been recognized that the United States is a far more advantageous forum for personal injury plaintiffs than almost any foreign forum. Moreover, in recent years, the question of whether a maritime personal injury case is tried in state or federal court has grown in importance, as plaintiffs have increasingly found advantages in state court litigation. Many state judges are elected, and the politicization of judicial selection gives at least a perceived advantage to particular lawyers and parties in particular courts. Moreover, federal district court judges tend to exercise more control in the scope of voir dire examination and the conduct of trial and are more prone to grant motions raising legal defenses than their state counterparts. Finally, there is at least the perception that state appellate courts are less likely to disturb jury findings in personal injury cases than are federal appellate courts. Accordingly, maritime practitioners devote considerable effort attempting to fix or avoid jurisdiction and venue in particular courts. This Article provides an overview of the procedural tools available to the combatants grappling with these issues.