Pocock v. Pocock
5/19/23, Judge Northcutt
Transferring venue may have just gotten harder in the Zoom era. The litigation arises from an intrafamily dispute over proceeds from the sale of the Tallahassee home of Pocock's late son, John Pocock. One of the parties sought a transfer of venue under section 47.122, Fla. Stat, which permits a transfer of venue for the convenience of the parties or witnesses in the interests of justice. But part of this case was rooted in promissory notes, and the notes contained a venue selection clause stating that each party consented to be sued in circuit court in Pinellas County or the Middle District of Florida Tampa Division.
The motion sought to transfer the case to Leon County (Tallahassee), and the trial judge granted the motion. But on appeal, the DCA reminds us that forum selection clauses between parties waive venue rights that are based on inconvenience unless there is a compelling reason for a court to disregard it.
More importantly, the DCA expressly held that even without the forum selection clause, the movant failed to show that a transfer of venue was justified. The plaintiff lives in Pinellas and he is old and in poor health. The court expressly noted that the fact that a lot of the lawyers live in Leon County is not something the court should take into account. Also, there was no demonstration of real inconvenience to witnesses who lived in Leon County, especially in light of the new rules like Rule 2.530, allowing for remote testimony. Plaintiffs get to choose the forum, and parties seeking a change in venue have the burden to “demonstrate the impropriety of the plaintiff’s selection.” The DCA specifically held that even without the forum selection clause, it would have reversed for lack of satisfaction of the movant’s burden. Reversed and remanded.