Wednesday, March 19, 2008
In a case of first impression, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that the proper venue for a legal malpractice claim is in the circuit court where the underlying action could have been filed. The case involved an attorney's alleged failure to file a wrongful death action on behalf of the heirs of a person killed in a workplace accident. The lawyer had sought a change of venue to the county where he maintained his law practice, claiming that was where the plaintiffs were "first injured."
According to the court "the injury sought to be redressed by the malpractice action is the financial loss from the lack of an enforceable judgment. That judgment could have been rendered in either the circuit court of the City of St. Louis or in the circuit court of St. Louis County. Under the facts of this case and the plain language of the venue statutes, Plaintiffs were 'first injured' in those venues in which the wrongful death action could have been filed. A trial court is without discretion to disturb a plaintiff's choice of proper venue. Therefore, the circuit court abused its discretion in ordering the transfer of Plaintiffs' case from the circuit court of the City of St. Louis, which was proper venue for Plaintiffs' legal malpractice action." (Mike Frisch)