Under Florida Law, May a Florida Resident Be Sued in a County Other Than His or Her County of Residence?

Florida Statutes Section 47.011 provides the statutory basis for venue (i.e., the location) of a lawsuit filed against a Florida resident (i.e., an individual).  Section 47.011 provides that “[a]ctions shall be brought only in the county where the defendant resides, where the cause of action accrued, or where the property in litigation is located.”  Thus, under the right circumstances, a Florida resident may be sued in a county other than the county in which he or she resides. 

When a lawsuit is filed, “[t]he plaintiff must allege in the complaint a sufficient basis for the selected venue.” See Nicholas v. Ross, 721 So. 2d 1241, 1242 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998).  If a Florida resident is not sued in his or her county of residence, then the plaintiff must sue the Florida resident in a county where one of the causes of action accrued, or in the county where the property in litigation is located.

  1. Each cause of action must be analyzed to determine where it accrued.  For example, "a cause of action on a contract accrues for venue purposes where the breach of that contract occurs, and if a contract involves performance, the breach occurs where the defaulting party fails to perform an act that it has agreed to do."  Koslow v. Sanders, 4 So. 3d 37, 39 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009).  Moreover, "[a] tort claim accrues for venue purposes 'where the last event necessary to make the defendant liable for the tort took place,' or where the harmful effect of the defendant's acts first took effect. Stated another way, a tort accrues where the plaintiff first suffers injury." Weinberg v. Weinberg, 936 So. 2d 707, 709 (Fla.  DCA 2006)(citations omitted).  A cause of action for tortious conduct accrues at the moment the wrong and the injury both accrue. See Fla. Gamco, Inc. v. Fontaine, 68 So. 3d 923, 929-30 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011); Harb v. Commerce Realty Group, Inc., 881 So. 2d 35, 36 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004).  While the plaintiff might claim to have suffered injury elsewhere, the proper venue is where the first compensable damage occurs, not where subsequent damage - even greater damage in another county - occurs.  Fontaine, 68 So. 3d at 929-30; Weinberg, 936 So. 2d at 709 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006 (“[A] tort accrues where the plaintiff first suffers injury.”); Harb, 881 So. 2d at 36 (“For purposes of venue, a tort accrues in the county where the plaintiff first suffers injury.”).  
  2. “Property in litigation” generally pertains to immobile real property that is the basis of the litigation. See Zur v. Air Orlando Sales, Inc., 751 So. 2d 726, 727 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000).

Note that, even if the plaintiff has sued a Florida resident in a proper county, Florida Statutes Section 47.122 provides that “for the convenience of the parties or witnesses or in the interest of justice, any court of record may transfer any civil action to any other court of record in which it might have been brought.”  Section 47.122 “sets forth three bases for transferring venue: (1) the convenience of the parties, (2) the convenience of the witnesses, and (3) the interest of justice.”   See Universal Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Long, 157 So. 3d 382, 383 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015).  “A circuit court may not ignore the three pertinent factors when deciding whether a venue transfer under section 47.122 is proper.” Id. at 383.  “[A] plaintiff's choice of venue is not a paramount consideration; it is merely a 'meaningful one in assessing the convenience of the parties.'" Id. at 384.  “The most important consideration when determining whether to grant a section 47.122 motion is the convenience of the witnesses.” Id.  “When a party moves to transfer venue for the convenience of the parties [pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 47.122], the trial court is faced with more than one legally acceptable venue and must chose a good location.”  See PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP v. Cedar Res., Inc., 761 So. 2d 1131, 1133 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999).

Joel Ewusiak represents Florida residents in lawsuits and arbitration proceedings.  Please contact Joel for legal assistance with your particular case.