In What Texas County Should a Real Estate Lawsuit Be Filed?
In the legal world the term “Venue” refers to the county in which a lawsuit is to be prosecuted. Venue and jurisdiction are related terms, but the concept of venue is more concerned with the locale of a lawsuit.
Notably, the venue in which a case goes to trial isn’t always the county in which suit is originally filed. This is because venue can be transferred if a lawsuit is filed in a County that is not a proper venue.
WHY VENUE MATTERS
The county of suit is important in every case because the judge and jurors who will decide the case are typically residents of that county. Thus, the values and demographics of jurors (and judges) are unique in every county.
Venue is also important because the county of suit often affects the difficulty or ease of attending court hearings, bringing trial witnesses to testify, and the speed with which a lawsuit will be put to trial. In this way, litigating a suit in a distant county can be burdensome compared to a local court.
The orientation of judges and jurors (Plaintiff or defense oriented, liberal or conservative, generous or stingy) also varies greatly among Texas’ 254 counties. For example, the Judges in most of Texas’ large urban counties are Democrats, while the vast majority of judges in rural counties are Republican. Historically, some counties are notorious for “runaway” juries who award large verdicts, while others are considered to be somewhat conservative when it comes to awarding damages. For this reason, some attorneys and litigants consider certain venues more or less favorable than others.
WHO SELECTS THE VENUE FOR A LAWSUIT?
Generally speaking, the Plaintiff who files suit gets to select the venue or county of suit. However, there are stringent rules and statues limiting a Plaintiff’s choice of venue to a “proper” county.
These limitations are contained in Chapter 15 of the Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code (the “CPRC”) and are designed to mandate that the county of suit has some sufficient connection to the parties or events of the lawsuit.
Venue is never proper in a County that has no connection to the subject matter of the lawsuit or any of the parties.
GENERAL VENUE RULE
The general venue rule is located at Section 15.002 of the CPRC. This statute requires that (with certain exceptions) lawsuits be brought in one of the following counties:
1) in the county in which all or a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred;
(2) in the county of defendant’s residence at the time the cause of action accrued if defendant is a natural person;
(3) in the county of the defendant’s principal office in this state, if the defendant is not a natural person; or
(4) if Subdivisions (1), (2), and (3) do not apply, in the county in which the plaintiff resided at the time of the accrual of the cause of action.
Each of the foregoing are considered to be counties of proper or “permissive” venue. By contrast, cases involving certain parties or subject matters must be brought in specified counties (counties of “mandatory” venue). One category of cases subject to mandatory venue rules are those involving interests inTexas land / real estate.
MANDATORY VENUE FOR CASES INVOLVING REAL ESTATE
Lawsuits involving title to or encumbrances upon real estate are subject to the mandatory venue rule codified at Section 15.011 of the CPRC. This Section states:
Sec. 15.011. LAND. Actions for recovery of real property or an estate or interest in real property, for partition of real property, to remove encumbrances from the title to real property, for recovery of damages to real property, or to quiet title to real property shall be brought in the county in which all or a part of the property is located.
Partition cases are also subject to mandatory venue. See Section 23(a) of the Texas Property Code:
Sec. 23.002. VENUE AND JURISDICTION. (a) A joint owner or a claimant of real property or an interest in real property may bring an action to partition the property or interest in a district court of a county in which any part of the property is located.
Put simply, lawsuits related to real estate in Texas must be filed in the County in which all or part of the real estate is located.