Miss. SC approves change of venue in suit over defective car

Jessica M. Karmasek Mar. 16, 2012, 10:15am


JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - The Mississippi Supreme Court said last week that a trial judge erred in denying a car dealer's motion for change of venue.

Larry Blakeney, a resident of Smith County, filed a lawsuit in Smith County Circuit Court against Laurel Ford Lincoln-Mercury Inc. and Kia Motors America Inc., alleging that the 2008 Kia Optima that he bought from Laurel Ford was defective.

Laurel Ford's principal place of business is in Jones County, and Kia, the manufacturer, is a nonresident corporation.

In particular, Blakeney alleged that the defendants "held [his] vehicle at [Laurel Ford] at 2018 Highway 15 North in Laurel, Mississippi, 39440, and told [him] that he could not leave with his vehicle unless he signed a release."

According to the complaint, the vehicle "was warranted by the defendants by written and expressed warranty from any and all defects in materials and workmanship."

Laurel Ford and Kia filed separate motions, both seeking a change of venue from Smith County to Jones County.

Following a brief hearing, Smith County Circuit Judge Eddie H. Bowen denied the motions.

The defendants petitioned the state's high court for interlocutory review.

Justice James W. Kitchens, who authored the Court's March 8 ruling, said venue is proper in Smith County only in the event that that county is "where a substantial alleged act or omission occurred or where a substantial event that caused the injury occurred."

"The case's only connection to Smith County is that Blakeney resides there and that he began to notice the alleged defects while in Smith County," Kitchens wrote.

"Blakeney has not identified 'a substantial alleged act or omission' or 'a substantial event' that occurred in Smith County, and merely experiencing unspecified problems or damages while the vehicle in question is situated in a particular county does not make that county the proper place to litigate his claim."

Because Blakeney cannot point to "a substantial alleged act or omission" or "a substantial event" that occurred in Smith County, the trial judge abused his discretion by denying the defendants' motions to transfer venue, the Court said.

The Court reversed the trial court's ruling and remanded the case for transfer to Jones County.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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