Many people who have been injured in car and truck accidents are unaware of the options available to them in choosing in which court their case is litigated. This can be a very important choice that will affect both your chances of prevailing at trial and the value of any verdict.
Ask any experienced Maryland victim's rights lawyer whether they would prefer to try a case in Prince Georges County or Wicomico County and they will quickly and correctly choose Prince Georges County as the better venue. Why is the subject of another article but the fact is that verdicts are routinely smaller in Wicomico County than in Prince Georges County.
So, what are the significant considerations in choosing where to file a lawsuit in cases you and your attorney believe are worth substantially more than the Maryland state district court maximum verdict limit of $30,000.00?
Federal v State Court
Maryland's two federal courts in Greenbelt and Baltimore encompass multiple counties in their jury pools. Thus a case tried in the Southern District in Greenbelt will draw jurors from Montgomery County, Prince Georges County, Calvert County, Charles County and St. Mary's County.
The Northern District encompasses Maryland's remaining counties. Inevitably, the more populated counties make up more of one's jury pool than the less populous ones. So a jury in the Southern district will have a greater proportion of Prince Georges County and Montgomery County residents as their populations are many times larger than Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties combined. Similarly you will get many more jurors from Baltimore City and County in the Northern District Court.
So why is this important? The answer is that the median household income in Montgomery County is vastly higher than say Caroline County and thus when asked to award a verdict, Montgomery County jurors are more comfortable awarding greater compensation. Perhaps, it is a recognition that the cost of living is vastly greater in Montgomery County but the bottom line is that the less wealthy, more rural Maryland counties have long been reputed to be conservative in their jury awards.
So, the median incomes in the Southern District are higher and this would presumably encourage one to file suit in the Southern District rather than the Northern District right? Not necessarily. Median incomes of Baltimore City residents are half of those in Montgomery County and yet Baltimore City is known as one of the best jurisdictions in which to bring personal injury claims.
The analysis of which is the better Maryland federal district court defies simple arithmetic and really benefits from a case by case analysis. The title of this section, Federal v State Court is a simpler choice.
If you can bring your case in state court in Baltimore City, Montgomery County, or Prince Georges County, choose state court. If your state court venue is Worcester, Wicomico, Caroline, Talbot, Somerset, or Allegany Counties give serious thought to going to federal court. There are of course toss up counties such as Anne Arundel, Baltimore Howard, Charles, Calvert and St Mary's, in which a more thoughtful analysis is necessary.
The bottom line is that individual specific counties are likely better than either federal court except under unusual circumstances.