Civil Case Update-When a Transfer of Venue is not an Abuse of Discretion


Smith v. Johns Hopkins Cmty. Physicians, Inc., 2013 Md. App. LEXIS (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Jan. 23, 2013).

This case involved the question of whether a transfer to a legally proper, more convenient forum is appropriate. The Court decided that the granting of the transfer at issue was appropriate.

A medical malpractice and wrongful death claim was filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. The Defendant sought transfer to Baltimore County. The transfer was granted and the Plaintiff appealed, citing substantive error and abuse of discretion on the part of the Judge.

The primary Plaintiff resides in Baltimore County, where she lived with her late husband for the nine years he was receiving treatment for a cardiac condition. The other two Plaintiffs live in Harford County and Delaware. The Defendant physician lives in Baltimore County and all treatment rendered by him was in Baltimore County.

Typically the forum chosen by a Plaintiff is given great deference; where the Plaintiff does not live in the forum chosen, however, the choice is given little weight. When a Court decides whether to transfer venue, it considers two factors: 1.) the convenience of the parties and witnesses and 2.) the interests of justice.

Nearly all of the parties reside in Baltimore County and the alleged harm also occurred in Baltimore County. The doctors already listed as expert witnesses also reside in Baltimore County. The Court could not identify a single witness for whom Baltimore City would be more convenient. The Court also stated that they were not concerned with the convenience of expert witnesses, who take it upon themselves as part of their jobs to testify as experts in cases. The Plaintiff had argued they may be calling experts from out of state.

In examining the interests of justice, the Court looks at court congestion, the burden of jury duty and local interest in the matter at hand. Essentially, the Court reasoned, Baltimore City is a very busy jurisdiction, who should not be shackled with the hassle of a jury trial for a case in which they hold no interest.

The Court held that the Judge did not abuse her discretion in granting the transfer, and in fact, Baltimore County was a much more appropriate venue for this matter.