Dogra v. Liles – Determining Jurisdiction in Asheville Traffic Injury Claims

Almost universally, if you are injured in an Asheville car accident, the claim is going to end up in state court. usamap1.jpg

That’s because state courts have well established that they have jurisdiction over the incidents that occur on their roads. This is generally true even when the person who caused the crash is from out-of-state.

The primary exception would be if the party you are suing is from out-of-state and you are seeking damages in excess of $75,000. In these situations, which are questions of personal jurisdiction (as opposed to subject-matter jurisdiction), it’s possible that the defendant could request to have the case moved to federal court.

The general idea is that when the stakes are high, it may be unfair to demand a defendant burden the cost of traveling back-and-forth out of state to adequately represent themselves throughout the hearings. A move to federal court is supposed to represent an evening of the playing field.

However, defendants are going to have an uphill battle trying to argue this, as the case of Dogra v. Liles, recently reviewed by the Supreme Court of Nevada, revealed.

In this case, a teen driver was in Nevada, driving a vehicle purchased and paid for by her mother in California, when she caused an accident resulting in injuries. Both the teen and her mother were residents of California, while the plaintiffs were residents of Nevada, where the crash occurred.

The college student was on a weekend trip in Nevada when she lost control of the vehicle, swerved in front of another car, causing that second vehicle to crash into the median and flip, ultimately landing on a third car.

The injuries sustained to the occupants of the third vehicle were the basis for the claim at hand, which alleged negligence by the daughter and negligent entrustment by the mother, for allowing her daughter to drive the vehicle.

The mother moved for a dismissal of the claim, arguing that the Nevada court did not have jurisdiction because she was a resident of California. The plaintiffs opposed this motion on the grounds that the defendant had sufficient contacts with Nevada.

Following a hearing, the district court granted the mother’s claim to dismiss. A week later, the mother and daughter moved to consolidate all claims related to the accident -including those involving the third-vehicle occupants. In turn, those plaintiffs alleged that by filing this action, the mother became subject to jurisdiction in Nevada.

The district court disagreed, and allowed the dismissal to stand.

The plaintiffs later requested reconsideration of this matter, pointing to the fact that during the depositions in that consolidated motion, the mother testified that she placed no restrictions on her daughter’s use of the vehicle. The district court denied that motion on the basis that this information was not new or substantially different.

The plaintiffs appealed. The state’s high court reversed and remanded. The court held that while the mother was not subject to personal jurisdiction in Nevada by the fact that her daughter was allowed universal use of the vehicle or by her motion to consolidate. However, she might be subject to jurisdiction in Nevada by virtue of an interpleader action filed in Nevada by her insurance company.

The lower court was asked to reconsider its position in light of this information.

If you have questions regarding the jurisdiction of your car accident claim and what that could mean for your case, contact us today.

If you or a loved one is injured in an Asheville traffic collision, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845. No Attorney Fees Until You’ve Been Paid.

Additional Resources:
Dogra v. Liles, Dec. 26, 2013, Supreme Court of the State of Nevada
More Blog Entries:
Tragic South Carolina Traffic Accident Blamed on Drunk Driving, Oct. 23, 2013, Asheville Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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