In sports, the home field advantage is critical.
You think that loss in Buffalo didn’t hurt? Without it, Seattle is at Lambeau, there is no lucky comeback, and the Pack crushes the Patriots in the Superbowl.
(And, I digress, Pete Carroll would not have made the worst play call in NFL history).
For many reasons, the same home field advantage applies in litigation. We are most familiar with our local courts and rules; we know the judges and their personalities; we carry our own reputations into court; and litigation is less expensive for the home team.
That’s why out-of-state defendants remove to federal court and, if possible, seek a change of venue.
It is critical to advise clients to always, always include choice of law and venue provisions in their contracts, purchase orders, waiver forms, and other legal documents.
Periodically review clients’ existing forms to ensure their interests are fully protected against potential litigation.
In contract negotiations, don’t accept an inconvenient venue – negotiate for your own.
Do so in arbitration clauses too. AAA and JAMS will honor a written agreement for an arbitration’s locale.
Otherwise, AAA/JAMS will decide locale by considering factors such as the dispute’s subject matter, the parties’/witnesses’ convenience, a site visit’s importance, and the applicable law.
The absence of a venue clause may yield a race to the courthouse. All else being equal, federal courts recognize a “strong presumption in favor of the plaintiff’s choice of forum,” giving even “greater deference when the plaintiff has chosen the home forum.” Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 255 (1981).
Winning the venue battle can go a long way toward winning the case, or settling on your terms.
Had the Packers negotiated the NFC Championship home field advantage, we would have another Lombardi Trophy.
Please, don’t let your clients litigate in Seattle.