Tom Brady learned a hard lesson about forum shopping this week. He and the NFL Players Association (“NFLPA”) filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota over his four game suspension for his alleged role in the under inflation of footballs in the AFC Championship game. However, the NFL preemptively filed first on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York just after the NFL Commissioner handed down his decision on Brady’s appeal. The judge in Minnesota transferred the case to New York.
According to a July 31, 2015 Yahoo! Sports article titled, Brady lawsuit transferred from Minnesota to New York court, Brady and the NFLPA wanted the case in Minnesota because Minnesota Viking player Adrian Peterson had received a favorable ruling from the Minnesota court against the NFL on his suspension. Minnesota Judge Richard Kyle found that the case should go forward in New York given the lack of ties to Minnesota: the NFL is headquartered in New York, the NFLPA is headquartered in Washington, Brady plays in Massachusetts, and both the arbitration and award were held/issued in New York.
[The court] sees little reason for this action to have been commenced in Minnesota at all. . . . [The court] strongly suspects the union filed in Minnesota because it has obtained favorable rulings from this court in the past on behalf of its members.
It is important for legal consumers to understand that while a court must have “jurisdiction” over a matter, “venue” must also be proper. And, in cases where two courts have jurisdiction and both are proper venues, it can be a race to the courthouse because in that instance, the court in which the case is “first filed” will be granted deference by the other court.
Jurisdiction and venue can be complicated and should be thoroughly considered. Because if it can happen to Tom Brady and the NFLPA with their team of high-priced lawyers . . . it can happen to you.