(251) 299-0101

VENUE - EX PARTE HAMPTON INS. AGENCY AND GINGER SPENCER

In Ex parte Hampton Ins. Agency and Ginger Spencer, [Ms. 1101211, Nov. 18, 2011] __ So. 3d __(Ala. 2011), the Alabama Supreme Court held that Ala. Code ¤ 6-3-2-(a)(3), the venue provision governing individuals, is the only venue provision that applies to a defendant that is an unincorporated entity operating as a sole proprietorship. Therefore, in an action against a sole proprietorship, venue is proper either "in the county of [the sole proprietorship's] residence or in the county in which the act or omission complained of. . .occurred." As a result, the Court held that proper venue in the case was Tuscaloosa County rather than Hale County, where it was originally filed. The plaintiff argued that her substitution of new defendants for fictitiously named parties related back to the original complaint and therefore made venue proper in Hale County. The Court acknowledged that amendments to the complaint substituting the true name of a fictitiously named party should be considered in determining whether venue is proper at the commencement of the action. See Ex parte Lugo de Vega, 65 So. 3d 886, 892 (Ala. 2010). However, the Court held that the plaintiff's claim that she was ignorant of the identities of additional defendants, as required by Rule 9(h) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, was "untenable." Furthermore, the Court held that the plaintiff's inclusion of new defendants in the amended complaint was not a substitution of the true names of fictitiously named defendants, stating: "In fact, we note both the absence of any language in the amended complaint expressing the alleged intended 'substitution' and the fact that, despite the purported substitution, fictitiously named defendants A-C remained as parties in [Plaintiff's] amended complaint." See Ex parte Overstreet, 748 So. 2d 194, 197 (Ala. 1999) (holding "that the addition of a new party, as distinguished from the substitution of a party for a previously named fictitious party, would not relate back for purposes of determining proper venue."). For all these reasons, the Court held that Tuscaloosa County was the only proper venue.
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