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Proper Jurisdiction: California or Louisiana for the Steven Seagal Civil Suit?

Last week a woman filed a civil complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the actor Steven Seagal, alleging sexual harassment and trafficking for sex among other charges and asking for $1,000,000 in damages.  News reports indicate that the woman claims she was sexually assaulted over a period of days in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.

The civil claim describes events that took place in the state of the Louisiana, not in Los Angeles, where the claim was filed. Mr. Seagal and the other employees currently reside in Lafitte, Louisiana and any physical evidence related to the claim would also be in Louisiana. All of the facts and witnesses are in one jurisdiction, Louisiana, so you might conclude that the proper jurisdiction for the suit is Louisiana.

Lawsuit Should Be Filed in Most Convenient Location

Generally speaking, a suit should be filed in the most convenient location for the parties involved. When a plaintiff (in this case, the woman filing the suit against Mr. Seagal) files suit in a location distant from where the defendant resides, it is called “forum non conveniens,” a Latin phrase meaning what it sounds like, a forum which is not convenient. In this situation, the defendant can claim that the jurisdiction is not proper and file a petition for the court to move the case to a more convenient court.

Must Be Significant Connection between Suit and California

So is California a proper jurisdiction for the Seagal civil suit? Maybe. In order to file suit in Los Angeles rather than Louisiana, there needs to be a connection between the claim and California. Although the defendant and witnesses are currently living in Louisiana, the plaintiff could file in California if there is “significant contact” between Mr. Seagal and California – this can include owning a home or conducting business there. The standard to consider is — could Mr. Seagal reasonably expect to be sued in California?  Additionally, since the plaintiff was hired to work for Mr. Seagal in Los Angeles, she can claim that the alleged activities originated in California.

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