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Georgia Appeals Court Rules on Dispute Over County to Hear Car Accident Case

Filing a claim in one state versus another or even one county versus another can seem like a minor detail, but it can make a big difference in the outcome of a case. Laws and local court rules differ from one place to another, and even the specific judges and jury pools can be an important consideration in a personal injury case. In a recent case, a Georgia appeals court discussed the considerations that go into determining where a Georgia wrongful death case should be heard.

Car AccidentIn that case, a girl was killed in a motor vehicle crash, and her mother filed a wrongful death action against a trucking company. She alleged that her daughter was killed after she was hit or forced off the road by a tractor-trailer owned by the defendant. The plaintiff also alleged that the driver pulled over and got out of the vehicle but then fled the scene.

The defendant was a domestic corporation, and the crash occurred in Bibb County, Georgia. However, the defendant’s principal place of business and registered agent were located in Jeff Davis County, Georgia. The plaintiff argued that the case should be heard in Bibb County because venue was proper there under the Georgia Motor Carrier Act because the claim arose in Bibb County. The defendant argued the case should be moved to Jeff Davis County because under OCGA 14-2-510(b)(4), a defendant corporation can remove a case to a Georgia county where it maintains its “principal place of business.” The case was moved to Jeff Davis County, and the court denied the mother’s motion to send the case back to Bibb County.

On appeal, the mother claimed that the right to move a case under OCGA 14-2-510(b)(4) only applies if “venue is based solely on [that] paragraph.” She argued that she filed the claim in Bibb County based on a venue provision contained in OCGA 40-1-117(b) instead, and thus venue was not based solely on that paragraph.

The court agreed with the mother, finding that 14-2-510(b)(4) applies only to cases in which venue is based upon that specific paragraph. Since the mother asserted a separate reason why venue was proper in Bibb County, the defendant could not remove the case under 14-2-510(b)(4). Accordingly, the court found the case should be sent back to Bibb County.

Proper Venue

Venue refers to the county or district where a case will be heard. The Georgia Constitution states generally that all civil cases will be tried “in the county where the defendant resides” but that for corporations, the venue will be “as provided by law.”

Determining where venue is appropriate is governed by OCGA 14-2-510, which states that every corporation authorized to transact business in the state is said to reside in:

  • the county where the corporation maintains its registered office;
  • the county where the cause of action originated, as long as the corporation has an office or transacts business in that county; and
  • the county where the cause of action originated.

However, the statute further states that “[i]f venue is based solely on this [third] paragraph, the defendant shall have the right to remove the action to the county in Georgia where the defendant maintains its principal place of business.” Thus, the law provides for several appropriate venues, but it gives the defendant corporation the right to change the venue in certain circumstances when it does not transact business or have an office in the county where the accident occurred.

Contact an Experienced Injury Attorney

Understanding the importance of every decision is a key component of effective advocacy in Georgia personal injury cases. At the McAleer Law Firm, we handle claims arising from serious or catastrophic injuries or wrongful death sustained in a wide range of accidents. Our attorneys are ready to fight for the rights of victims in the Atlanta metro area and other Georgia communities, including Alpharetta, Conyers, Decatur, Gainesville, Lawrenceville, Macon, Norcross, Roswell, Sandy Springs, and Stone Mountain. We can help you explore your full range of options and advocate vigorously throughout the legal process. Call us at 404-622-5337 or contact us through our online form.

See More Posts:

Georgia Court Permits Plaintiffs to Add Defendant and Amend Expert Affidavit Beyond Statute of Limitations, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, September 25, 2017.

Georgia Court Discusses Government Immunity in Recent Car Accident Case, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, January 10, 2018.