As with most laws in the United States, there are very specific places where a Jones Act lawsuit must be filed. The choice of where to file suit typically rests with the injured employee who is the one filing suit against his employer. Sometimes the choice of where to file suit can be extremely important as there are different philosophies and attitudes towards litigation throughout the United States. It is important that you file your suit in the most understanding, sympathetic location possible. In order to do so, you must first understand the choices of where you can file your Jones Act suit.
The first issue to be addressed is whether you should file suit in federal or state court. The federal court system is made up of many district courts which cover the United States. In each state there are typically several federal district courts. Many types of lawsuits, including Jones Act suits, can be filed in these individual federal district courts. In addition to the federal court system, each state also has its own court system. Similar to the federal district courts, there are also many district courts at the state level which are disbursed throughout each state. Your Jones Act suit must be filed either in a federal district court or in a state district court. However, you will have a choice of several federal district courts and perhaps several state district courts in which you can file your Jones Act suit.
In regard to federal district courts, very often you are allowed to file suit in the federal district court closest to where your accident occurred. If your accident occurred within a state waterway such as the Mississippi River or a lake within a state, it is easy to determine the federal district court where the site of the accident is located. You can also file suit in the federal district court where the defendant company operates its business. Sometimes there are multiple choices allowed since a company typically operates in many different locations. Finally, you can often file suit in a particular federal district if enough activity on your claim has taken place in that federal district. For example if your physicians and key witnesses are all located within a single federal district court, very often that federal district court will be a proper location for you to file suit.
In regard to state courts, typically you will have several different choices of which state district courts to file in. Similar to the federal district court choices, you can often file suit where the company is located within the state as well as at the location of the accident. Also, you can often file suit in the state district court where enough activity took place in regard to your accident. This can often include the location where you left out of to travel offshore as well as, especially, the location to which you were brought back to receive your initial medical treatment following your injury offshore. As you can see, the choice of where to file your Jones Act suit is not a simple, single answer.
It is important for you to determine your options in regard to where you can file suit, and then it is even more important for you to determine which of these options is best. Not only can the attitude towards litigation and lawsuits be different in each location, but in state courts there are very different procedural rules which will apply to your case than in federal court. This does not necessarily mean that you should always file suit in state or federal court. It simply means it is one issue to be considered along with the other choices above.