Medina County Courthouse

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Judge Kimbler Decision Regarding Venue in a Declaratory Judgment Action

On March 11, 2011, I ordered the transfer of a case captioned Westfield Insurance Company v. Roger Mercurio, et al., Case No. 10CIV1878. The action was a declaratory judgment action filed by Westfield Insurance to determine whether there was coverage under a homeowners' policy issued to Mr. and Mrs. Mercurio for a dog bite. Their dog, LeBron, bit a neighbor's child. Westfield claimed that there wasn't coverage under the homeowners' policy since the dog was a "vicious" animal as that term is used in the policy.

The dog bite took place in Richland County. The policy was purchased in Richland County from an insurance agent located in Richland County. The Mercurios filed a motion to transfer venue under Civ. R. 12 and Civ. R. 3. They claimed that venue was proper in Richland County, but not in Medina County.

Westfield argued that the decision to deny coverage was made at the company's headquarters in Medina County. Therefore, the activity that gave rise to the claim for relief took place in Medina County.

Although I found this argument interesting, I concluded that venue was not proper in Medina County. My reasoning was that the event that led to the denial of coverage, the dog bite by a "vicious" dog, took place in Richland County. Therefore the activity that gave rise to the claim for relief occurred in Richland County, not Medina County. Put another way, absent the dog bite in Richland County there would be no dispute between the parties and therefore no need to file a declaratory judgment action.

You can read by full opinion in pdf format on the Medina County Clerk of Courts' website by clicking here. Please note that this opinion is subject to appeal.

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