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The Alabama Supreme Court Reverses Prior Precedent And Clarifies Venue In A Workers’ Compensation Action Against A Foreign Corporation

Venue for actions against corporations, both domestic and foreign, are governed by Ala. Code §6-3-7(a)(3) (1975). The statute provides an action may be brought against a corporation in “the county in which the plaintiff resided, or if the plaintiff is an entity other than an individual, where the plaintiff had its principal office in this state, at the time of the accrual of the cause of action, if such corporation does business by agent in the county of the plaintiff’s residence.”

In Ex parte Mercedes-Benz U.S. Int’l, Inc., No. 1170623, 2019 WL 101144 (Ala. Jan. 4, 2019), the employee, Gregory Nix (“Nix”), filed a Complaint against Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (“Mercedes”) for workers’ compensation benefits alleging injuries he suffered during his employment left him permanently and totally disabled. Nix filed his Complaint in Jefferson County, where Nix is a resident. The Mercedes manufacturing facility, and headquarters, is located in Tuscaloosa County. Mercedes moved for a transfer of the cases from Jefferson County to Tuscaloosa County.

The trial court denied Mercedes’ Motion to Transfer and Mercedes appealed. The Court of Civil Appeals denied Mercedes’ petition, relying on Ex parte Scott Bridge Co., 834 So. 2d 79 (Ala. 2002) and held the Jefferson County venue was proper. In Ex Parte Scott Bridge, the Supreme Court upheld a trial court’s finding that a defendant corporation was “doing business by agent” in the county where Plaintiff resided based upon one of defendant’s suppliers being located in said county.

Mercedes then petitioned the Supreme Court of Alabama for a writ of mandamus ordering the trial court to change its decision.

The Supreme Court of Alabama granted Mercedes’ petition, overruling part of its prior holding in Ex Parte Scott Bridge. The Supreme Court held, “A mere contract with a parts supplier cannot reasonably be anticipated by the purchasing company to have the effect of consenting to venue in the county where the parts supplier is located for a tort action or a worker’s compensation action.”

Ex Parte Mercedes-Benz clarifies venue as defined by the Supreme Court of Alabama. By providing this clarification, the ruling should help defendant corporations who are named in an improper venue going forward.