STATE OF MISSOURI ex rel. HEARTLAND TITLE SERVICES, INC., f/k/a HEARTLAND TITLE COMPANY, INC. AND JAMES C. DAY, Relators,
THE HONORABLE KEVIN D. HARRELL, Respondent.
PROCEEDING IN MANDAMUS
action involves an original proceeding for a writ of
prohibition or, alternatively, a writ of mandamus filed by
Heartland Title Services, Inc., and James C. Day
(collectively, "Heartland") requesting this Court
prohibit Respondent from dismissing one of Heartland's
claims in the circuit court for lack of venue. This Court
issued a preliminary writ. Because this Court holds that
venue was proper in any county in Missouri, including Jackson
County, the preliminary writ is made permanent.
March 2015, Heartland filed a two-count petition in the
circuit court of Jackson County alleging professional
malpractice claims against Paul P. Hasty, Jr., and Hasty and
Associates, LLC (collectively, "Hasty"). Count II
of the petition alleges a claim of professional malpractice
based on Hasty's provision of legal services in a case in
Heartland sought to become creditors in a former
employee's personal bankruptcy case filed in the United
States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Kansas. Hasty
filed a motion to dismiss Count II for lack of venue, arguing
that the tort injury alleged in Count II occurred outside
Missouri. Hasty asserted the applicable venue statute, §
508.010.5, limited venue to either the
county in Missouri where a corporate defendant's
registered agent is located or the county in Missouri where
an individual defendant's principal place of residence is
located. Hasty further asserted that because the individual
defendant did not have his principal place of residence in
Missouri and because the corporate defendant did not have a
registered agent in Missouri, no county in Missouri
constitutes a proper venue, including Jackson County. The
circuit court agreed and dismissed Count II for lack of
venue. Heartland seeks relief in this
Court has the authority to "issue and determine original
remedial writs." Mo. Const. art. V, § 4.1. "It
is well-established that this Court accepts the use of an
extraordinary writ to correct improper venue decisions of the
circuit court before trial and judgment." State ex
rel. Kan. City S. Ry. Co. v. Nixon, 282 S.W.3d 363, 365
(Mo. banc 2009). This Court has determined a writ of mandamus
is the "appropriate remedy to reinstate a petition
erroneously dismissed for improper venue." State ex
rel. Rothermich v. Gallagher, 816 S.W.2d 194, 197 (Mo.
contends that venue is proper in Jackson County for Count II
and that the circuit court erred in its interpretation of
§ 508.010.5. Before addressing the text of §
508.010.5, a brief discussion of the distinction between
jurisdiction and venue is in order. Jurisdiction refers to
"the power of a court to try a case[.]"
Nixon, 282 S.W.3d at 365. Jurisdiction "is
based upon constitutional principles." Id.
courts recognize two kinds of jurisdiction: subject matter
and personal. J.C.W. ex rel. Webb v. Wyciskalla, 275
S.W.3d 249, 252 (Mo. banc. 2009). Subject matter jurisdiction
refers to a court's authority to render judgment in a
particular category of cases. Id. at 253. The
Missouri constitution provides circuit courts with subject
matter jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases. Mo.
Const. art. V, § 14. Personal jurisdiction, on the other
hand, refers to the power of a court to require a party to
respond to a legal proceeding affecting the party's
rights or interests. Id. at 253. The requirement
that a court have personal jurisdiction flows mostly from the
Due Process Clause, either in the Fifth or the Fourteenth
amendments to the United States Constitution. Ins. Corp.
of Ireland v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S.
694, 702 (1982).
subject matter jurisdiction can never be waived, personal
jurisdiction is an individual right to which a party can
consent. Id. at 703. It is not alleged that the
circuit court of Jackson County lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over Count II, and the motion to dismiss does
not allege lack of personal jurisdiction over either
on the other hand, assumes jurisdiction and only
"relates to the locale where the trial is to be
held." Nixon, 282 S.W.3d at 365. Unlike
jurisdiction, venue is not determined by constitutional
principles but by the applicable rule or statute that
"determines, among many courts with jurisdiction, the
appropriate forum for the trial." Id.
event a party is injured outside Missouri by allegedly
tortious conduct, § 508.010.5 provides, in relevant
(1) If the defendant is a corporation, then venue shall be in
any county where a defendant corporation's registered
agent is located or, if the plaintiff's principal place
of residence was in the state of Missouri on the date the
plaintiff was first injured, then venue may be in the county
of the ...