Thus far we have talked about a couple of the requirements for a case to be heard before a court. Any deviation from those rules could result in a 12(b) motion to dismiss. We now move onto the third requirement that needs to be met to avoid a 12(b)(3) dismissal. Venue.

Imagine the United States as if you are looking above it. You notice some activity in a certain part of the map and determine to zoom in and find that an accident has occurred in a particular state. You zoom in further and discover that the state can be divided further into districts.

We have talked about personal and subject matter jurisdiction. Those are important for venue determinations but are distinct from the venue. For instance, personal jurisdiction focuses on the states of the parties whereas venue cares about the districts the parties live in or where the claim arose from.

Uffner v. La Reunion Francaise

244 F.3d 38 (1st Cir. 2001).

Uffner is the plaintiff, lost and appealed.


Whether a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claim occurred in Puerto Rico.


According to 1391(b)(2) if an important or substantial part of the “sequence of events” gave rise to the claim, then venue is proper.


Venue is proper. Reversed.


Plaintiff went on a voyage when his sailboat caught on fire from the engine room and sank in Puerto Rico. He filed an insurance claim which was denied by the defendants. As a result, he sued. The defendants are from France, England, and Georgia (the US state).

The defendants argued that there was no subject matter jurisdiction and the venue was improper. The district court dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction and said that the venue was improper.


The court was not allowed to raise the issue of personal jurisdiction because that was waived when the defendants failed to bring the issue in their answer. As a result, we need to look at the venue.

The venue here is proper because the sinking of a ship is a historical predicate (needs to happen for something else to happen) to the claim. Meaning, if the ship did not sink, then there would be no need for the claim. Thus, for purposes of venue, a suit against an insurance company that arises due to the sinking of the ship is considered substantial.

Additional Notes

Federal Venue

Personal jurisdiction is all big picture about the state.

Subject matter jurisdiction tells us if things can be done in a federal or a state court. But it doesn’t tell us which federal court.

So what does tell us what court a claim can be filed in? Venue which is defined by judicial district not state.

28 USC § 1391(b) defines venue rules:

(b) Venue in General. – A civil action may be brought in

  1. A judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the state in which the district is located;
  2. A judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated; or
  3. If there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.

1391(b)(1) applies to situations where there is only one defendant or where multiple defendants are in the same state. If defendants are from different states, you can’t find venue based on location of defendants. They can still be at different districts within the same state.

1391(b)(2) tells you that you can sue in the district where a substantial part of the claim arises. You will need to use this if multiple defendants reside in different states. However, this will always be an option, even if 1391(b)(1) applies. This only does not apply if the substantial part of the claim arises in foreign soil.

1391(b)(3) simply says that if (b)(1) and (b)(2) is not available, then you use (b)(3). Then all you need to worry about is personal jurisdiction of the defendants.

Our focus is going to be on (b)(1) an (b)(2).

Venue is a limitation on TAG personal jurisdiction. This is because the defendant must reside in the state where the venue is. For example, if a person resides in Ohio, an accident occurs in New York, and sued in South Dakota (while visiting the state). TAG jurisdiction would be available, but the venue is improper because (b)(1) is available in Ohio and (b)(2) is available in New York. Therefore, he would need to find proper venue within the districts in those states.

Case notes

This is all about a dispute over § 1391(b)(2). We are trying to determine if the boat catching fire was a substantial part of where the claim arises. The defendant claims that this is only a breach of contract dispute and has nothing to do with Puerto Rico. Instead, everything was negotiated in France.

The court disagrees with this narrow approach. The contract was about his boat, and his boat sank. These two things are related. As such they event was considered substantial for purposes of venue.


The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.

Will Laursen

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