Law School Case Brief
Marler v. Petty - 94-1851 ( La. 4/10/95), 653 So. 2d 1167
La. Code Civ. Proc. Ann. arts. 121 and 932 provide, in part, that if an action has been brought in a court of improper venue, the trial court may transfer the action to a proper court, in the interest of justice. The jurisprudential rule has evolved that when a plaintiff does not knowingly file suit in the wrong venue, transfer to the correct venue is proper. Said another way, when the plaintiff does not have sufficient knowledge to ascertain the correct venue or acts upon incorrect knowledge and erroneously files suit in the wrong venue, the case should be transferred to a court of proper venue pursuant to La. Code Civ. Proc. Ann. art. 121. However, when the plaintiff knowingly files suit in the wrong venue, dismissal is proper.
While incarcerated at the Washington Correctional Institute in Washington Parish, Louisiana, a prisoner was allegedly attacked and injured by another inmate, Joseph Petty. The prisoner alleged that while he was reading in the exercise yard of Washington Correctional Institute, Petty, unprovoked and without warning, attacked him with a broom or mop handle and administered a severe beating of approximately three minutes' duration. He filed a tort suit against Petty, the prison and the state officials alleging that the prison officials acted negligently in responding or failing to respond to the attack. The plaintiff also stated in his petition that he attempted to utilize the appropriate administrative remedies, but his complaint was rejected. The trial court sustained the officials' motion to dismiss the suit without prejudice for improper venue under the Louisiana Corrections Administrative Remedy Procedure Act. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed. A writ of certiorari was filed.
Did the court err in dismissing the case based on improper venue?
The court affirmed the judgment that venue was improper, but reversed the dismissal of the suit and remanded the case for transfer to the proper venue. The prisoner's tort suit was governed by the Louisiana Corrections Administrative Remedy Procedure, La. Rev. § 15:1171 et seq. Thus, under La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:1177, the prisoner had to file his suit against the inmate as well as against the officials in the Nineteenth Judicial District Court. Because the prisoner did not knowingly file his suit in the wrong district court, the prisoner was entitled to have his case transferred pursuant to La. Code Civ. Proc. Ann. art. 121 and 932 to the Nineteenth Judicial District Court. Because the trial court did not rule on the officials' claim that the prisoner did not exhaust his administrative remedies, the appellate court improperly ruled in favor of the officials on that issue.
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