In December 2009 many passengers were injured in an American Airlines crash at the airport in Kingston, Jamaica. Liability, or whether or not the crash was caused by pilot error, mechanical failure, or any other reason is likely to be one of the main issues in any suit brought by victims of the crash before the amount of damages suffered by the victims will be considered. However, before the issues of liability or damages may be considered, any court in which the claim is filed may first have to deal with the issue of jurisdiction and venue. Is the suit filed in the right country, right state and in the right court?
Issues of jurisdiction and choice of forum depends on many factors. However, the primary factors are easily identifiable and can and should be considered by the injured and their attorneys at the early stages of the case. Jurisdiction in the United States is divided into two areas, personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction is the court’s authority over the parties in a case, whereas subject matter jurisdiction is the court’s jurisdiction to hear the subject issues of the case. Victims of the crash in Jamaica can either bring their case in the courts in Jamaica or the United States and either court system will have jurisdiction over them as plaintiffs, and over American Airlines as it does business in both countries and can expect to be held accountable in either place.
Subject matter jurisdiction is a bit trickier. While there may be little doubt that the Jamaican courts have subject matter jurisdiction over any claims that the victims can bring against American Airlines, some victims may want to file a claim in the United States for many reasons. For example, the court system in the United States may process the case faster than the Jamaican courts, the jurisprudence may be more settled and easier to navigate in the United States, and the likely to resolve the case may be greater in the United States. Others may choose to file their claim in Jamaica for other reasons. Before this decision is made, a thorough analysis of the benefits of each system should be made by the attorney and explained in clear easy to understand language to the victims so that an informed decision can be made by the victims.