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Forum Non Conveniens Opinion in Randallstown High School Shootings Case

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled yesterday in Peyton-Henderson v. Evans that Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge George L. Russell, III did not err in transferring a lawsuit from Baltimore City to Baltimore County because of the May 2004 shooting at Randallstown High School.

The ruling covers no new ground, but (sort of) retired Judge Charles E. Moylan Jr. lays out the history of the Maryland case law on forum non conveniens. The court underscored the more modern Maryland trend to focus on “the interests of justice” as opposed to concentrating on convenience of the witness. With a standard as amorphous as “interests of justice” you can be sure that excluding some insane finding, the appeals court will defer to the trial judge. Therefore, I’m surprised this case was initially appealed.

Judge Moylan jabbed lightly at personal injury lawyers who forum shop, quoting now Court of Special Appeals Judge Krauser, “while home may be where the heart is, it is not necessarily where the largest recovery lies.” But, in the next breath, Judge Moylan points out that “is beside the point when dealing with the venue statute rather than forum non conveniens” because Plaintiff is well within his or her right to sue anywhere where the venue is proper.

One other thing I got out of the case is something I think I already understood but is worth noting: the denial of a motion to transfer a case would be interlocutory and not immediately appealable but the affirmative order of a transfer is subject to immediate appellate review. I don’t think we have ever appealed a forum non conveniens transfer because we never had a case where we thought the transfer was an abuse of discretion. But it is still good to know.

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