As a plaintiff's trucking accident attorney in Gwinnett County, Georgia who handles cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia, a recent Georgia Court of Appeals opinion on venue in motor carrier (trucking accident) is of interest. The case, Blakemore v. Dirt Movers, Inc., A17A1540, decided January 11, 2018, involves a lawsuit against a Georgia based trucking company for wrongful death. Georgia trucking accident lawsuits can be complex and this case is an example of some of the litigation involved.
Summary of the court procedure of this Georgia Trucking Accident Lawsuit
According to the opinion, the wrongful death trucking lawsuit was filed in the State Court of Bibb County, Georgia, against the trucking company and its insurer. Bibb County is where the deadly trucking accident occurred. The trucking company then had the case removed to Jeff Davis County, its principal place of business, under O.C.G.A. § 14-2-510(b)(4), which allows Georgia corporations to defend lawsuits in their home counties, when, specifically under the subsection used, "venue is based solely on" that particular code section. The plaintiff then filed a motion to remand the case back to Bibb County, which the Jeff Davis State Court denied. An appeal followed and the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed, holding that this trucking accident lawsuit must go back to Bibb County.
What Georgia law controlled in determining where the lawsuit should be heard?
As Blakemore v. Dirt Movers, Inc., is a Georgia trucking accident lawsuit, and the defendant corporation is a motor carrier, a different code section, O.C.G.A. § 40-1-117(b) controlled. It provides:
"Except in those cases where the Constitution requires otherwise, any action against any resident or nonresident motor carrier for damages by reason of any breach of duty, whether contractual or otherwise, or for any violation of this article or of any order, decision, rule, regulation, direction, demand, or other requirement established by the state revenue commissioner may be brought in the county where the cause of action or some part thereof arose; and if the motor carrier or its agent shall not be found for service in the county where the action is instituted, a second original may be issued and service be made in any other county where the service can be made upon the motor carrier or its agent. The venue prescribed by this Code section shall be cumulative of any other venue provided by law."
In other words, O.C.G.A. § 14-2-510(b)(4), was not solely the basis for venue being in the trucking company's principal place of business of Jeff Davis County. O.C.G.A. § 40-1-117(b) allowed for the plaintiff to file suit in the county where the cause of action arose (where the trucking accident happened) in Bibb County.
Why does it matter which Georgia county a trucking lawsuit is filed in?
- It is fairer to the plaintiff to not have to pursue a lawsuit in the trucking company's backyard where prospective jurors may work for or have friends or family who work for or view the hometown trucking company favorably to the outsider plaintiff.
- Witnesses such as police and other motorists will often be closer (and more available to subpoena to court) in the county where an incident such as this trucking accident wrongful death case happened.
- As a practical matter, certain counties have a strategic advantage over others based on their histories of verdicts either for or against plaintiffs and defendants in personal injury and wrongful death cases.
Each of these factors is something a Georgia trucking accident attorney considers when looking at the appropriate venue, or county, to file suit.
If you or a loved one have suffered an injury or loss in a a Georgia trucking accident, please contact Gwinnett County based injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation.
Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.