CHARLESTON – A bill that would allow lawsuits against the state to be filed in any county has been passed by the West Virginia House of Delegates.

House Bill 2028 was approved on a 96-0 vote Jan. 23. It has been sent to the state Senate.

Currently, any lawsuit filed against the governor, a state officer or state agency must be filed in Kanawha Circuit Court. The measure, if approved, would allow for such complaints to be filed in any of the state’s 55 counties.

Last year, a similar bill made it through both chambers, but legislators didn’t have time to come to a consensus on the bills’ differences before the end of the session.

Del. Michael Folk (R-Berkeley) is the lead sponsor of the bill.

Two legal groups that usually butt heads both support the measure.

“For more than a decade, the West Virginia Association for Justice has taken the lead on venue reform,” said David Hammer, president of the West Virginia Association for Justice. “In 2007, we worked with the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce to craft a bill that tightened our state's venue laws while ensuring that West Virginia residents would have their cases heard in West Virginia courts.

“WVAJ helped draft a venue bill considered by the Legislature last year. That bill did not pass because time ran out on the legislative session. Last week, we worked with Chairman John Shott, the House Judiciary Committee and others to approve and pass this compromise bill – an0d we will continue to work on legislation that keeps West Virginia's courts open to West Virginians.”

West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse also supports the bill.

“The House of Delegates has already led the way in passing (this) bill, which we strongly support,” WV CALA Executive Director Roman Stauffer said. “In a few weeks, once the Senate begins considering House bills, we are confident they will take up this venue reform bill.”

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