Because MCL 600.1629; MSA 27A.1629
On April 29, 1987, plaintiff Carol D. Coleman, a resident of Washtenaw County, was discharged from her employment with the Detroit Public Schools after twenty-three years of service. Plaintiff subsequently consulted with defendant E. Donald Gurwin, an attorney, for legal advice regarding a potential wrongful discharge action against the school system. After four meetings at his Oakland County office, defendant informed plaintiff by letter that he would not represent her in such a suit because he did not believe that her suit was meritorious.
On May 9, 1990, plaintiff filed suit against defendant in Wayne Circuit Court, alleging legal malpractice. Plaintiff claimed that defendant's letter declining representation negligently provided erroneous advice regarding the applicable statute of limitations, thereby inducing her to forgo a meritorious wrongful discharge action until after the expiration of the period of limitation.
On June 29, 1990, defendant moved for a change of venue on the basis that venue was improperly laid in Wayne County. Defendant maintained that because the alleged legal malpractice occurred solely in Oakland and Washtenaw Counties that venue properly belonged in either of those counties. The trial court rejected the motion and ruled that because the underlying wrongful
This Court granted leave to appeal.
"In legal phraseology `venue' means the county where a cause is to be tried, and originally a venue was employed to indicate the county from which the jury was to come." Sullivan v Hall, 86 Mich. 7, 13; 48 NW 646 (1891). This Court has long recognized that the establishment of venue is properly within the Legislature's power. Barnard v Hinkley, 10 Mich. 458, 459 (1862).
Because an action for legal malpractice is a tort, venue in the instant case is controlled by MCL 600.1629(1)(a)(i); MSA 27A.1629(1)(a)(i). The statute in pertinent part provides for venue in "[a] county in which all or a part of the cause of action arose and in which either ... [t]he defendant resides, has a place of business, or conducts business in that county."
Hence, a plaintiff in a legal malpractice action must show that but for the attorney's alleged malpractice, he would have been successful in the underlying suit. Our Court of Appeals explained:
However, this "`suit within a suit' concept has vitality only in a limited number of situations, such as where an attorney's negligence prevents the client from bringing a cause of action (such as where he allows the statute of limitations to run), where the attorney's failure to appear causes judgment to be entered against his client or where the attorney's negligence prevents an appeal from being perfected." Id. at 693. This is so because the purpose of the "suit-within-a-suit requirement is to insure that the damages claimed to result from the attorney's negligence are more than mere speculation." Charles Reinhart Co v Winiemko, 196 Mich.App. 110, 115; 492 N.W.2d 505 (1992).
Plaintiff contends that because she must prove that her underlying wrongful discharge cause of action would have been successful to prevail in the instant suit, venue is proper in Wayne County
A fundamental principle guiding this Court is that a clear and unambiguous statute leaves no room for judicial construction or interpretation. People v Plumsted, 2 Mich. 465, 469 (1853). If, however, judicial interpretation is proper, then this Court must determine the Legislature's intent employing "`a reasonable construction considering its purpose and the object sought to be accomplished.' Additionally, it is the primary objective in statutory interpretation and construction to effectuate legislative intent without harming the plain wording of the act." Lorencz, supra at 377 (citation omitted). Adherence to the language and legislative intent of a statute is essential to ensure that "courts ... declare the sense of the law" and do not "exercise WILL instead of JUDGMENT ...." Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, No 78, Kramnick, ed (England: Penguin Books, 1987 [originally published in 1788]), p 440.
The statute at issue clearly and unambiguously indicates that venue rests for a tort action only in "[a] county in which all or a part of the cause of
Hence, in the instant case, venue in Wayne County is improper. Plaintiff, of course, may not sustain a cause of action for legal malpractice until she alleges all the elements of that tort. Plaintiff's allegations were: retaining the attorney to advise her about the conditions under which her employment was terminated, the attorney's allegedly negligent advice about both the Detroit Public Schools' potential liability and the statute of limitations, and the eventual running of the statute of limitations, which prevented her from bringing an action for wrongful discharge. Not one of the parts
Because MCL 600.1629; MSA 27A.1629 provides that venue for a legal malpractice action resides in the county in which the alleged malpractice occurred and not the county in which an underlying legal action would have resided, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals.
CAVANAGH, C.J., and LEVIN, BRICKLEY, BOYLE, GRIFFIN, and MALLETT, JJ., concurred with RILEY, J.
See also Babbitt v Bumpus, 73 Mich. 331; 41 NW 417 (1889).