The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a bill that deals with the treatment of out-of-state parties in North Dakota civil litigation.
House Bill 1042 would change the state’s court venue requirements for civil cases. HB1042 would require that if none of the defendants live in the state then the case must be brought forward in one of two places. Those two places would be either in the county where one of the plaintiffs resides or where the cause of legal action originated.
Rep. Lawrence Klemin, R-Bismarck, testified in favor of HB1042.
“This venue requirement applies equally to both resident and nonresident plaintiffs and will prevent forum shopping by both resident plaintiffs and nonresident plaintiffs,” Klemin said.
Klemin said the only changes to the venue requirement would involve cases in which no plaintiffs or defendants are from North Dakota and the cause of legal action didn’t occur in the state.
“The issue of venue arises mainly because of the asbestos litigation that has been pervasive in North Dakota and over the entire United States for the past 20 years,” Klemin said.
Klemin cited the case of Vicknair v. Phelps Dodge Industries. He said this case began in 2002 and took nine years of litigation, including coming before the state North Dakota Supreme Court twice. Klemin said the case involved 15 plaintiffs from Louisiana who sued 135 defendant companies.
“None of these plaintiffs had anything to do with North Dakota or any North Dakota company,” Klemin said. “They sued in North Dakota because they had missed the statute of limitations in Louisiana and North Dakota has a longer limitations period.”
Louisiana’s statute of limitations for such civil action on tort actions is two years, Klemin said. In North Dakota it’s six years.
The case was thrown out in 2011 by the Supreme Court.
“If we’d had the venue requirement contained in HB1042 the plaintiffs wouldn’t have been able to use the North Dakota courts for their litigation,” Klemin said.
Klemin said HB1042 would keep the state from taking on such cases. With the growing court caseloads statewide litigation of such cases with no North Dakota ties would only further stretch the courts, Klemin said.
No one spoke in opposition to HB1042, and no action was taken on the bill Wednesday. HB1042 was introduced by Legislative Management through the interim Judiciary Committee.