Where do I file a case in Georgia? (Venue)

Venue, as a general mater, indicates where (in which court) a legal matter should be filed. It is sometimes confused with subject matter jurisdiction and, because certain venue provisions appear in Georgia’s constitution, venue occasionally becomes a jurisdictional question in Georgia. Usually, though, jurisdiction indicates which court a legal matter should be filed in, such as Superior Court, State Court, Probate Court, Juvenile Court, Magistrate Court, etc. And usually, venue indicates the county in which the action or other legal matter should be filed.

Where should an Estate be opened?

O.C.G.A. § 53-5-1 provides:
(a) The probate court shall have exclusive jurisdiction over the probate of wills.
(b) The county of domicile of the testator at death shall give jurisdiction to the probate court of that county.
(c) The domicile of a testator who was in the care of a nursing home or other similar facility at the time of death shall be presumed to be the county in which the testator was domiciled immediately before entering the nursing home or other facility; provided, however, this presumption may be rebutted. If it is determined by the probate court that the testator considered or, in the absence of an impairment of mental faculties, the testator would have considered the county in which the facility is located to be the testator’s domicile, then for purposes of this Code section that county shall be considered the testator’s county of domicile.

Where should a guardianship or conservatorship be filed?

O.C.G.A. § 29-4-10 provides:
(a) Any interested person, including the proposed ward, may file a petition for the appointment of a guardian. Such petition shall be filed in the court of the county in which:
(1) The proposed ward is domiciled;
(2) The proposed ward is found; provided, however, that if the court of the county where the proposed ward is found determines that the proposed ward was removed to such county solely for the purposes of filing a petition for the appointment of a guardian and that such court acquired jurisdiction to appoint a guardian because of unjustifiable conduct, such court may take any action authorized by Code Section 29-11-16; or
(3) Jurisdiction is otherwise proper under Code Section 29-11-12.

O.C.G.A. § 29-5-10 provides:
(a) Any interested person, including the proposed ward, may file a petition for the appointment of a conservator. Such petition shall be filed in the court of the county in which:
(1) The proposed ward is domiciled;
(2) The proposed ward is found; provided, however, that if the court of the county where the proposed ward is found determines that the proposed ward was removed to such county solely for the purposes of filing a petition for the appointment of a conservator and that such court acquired jurisdiction to appoint a conservator because of unjustifiable conduct, such court may take any action authorized by Code Section 29-11-16; or
(3) Jurisdiction is otherwise proper under Code Section 29-11-12.

O.C.G.A. § 29-4-80 provides:
(a) A guardian may petition to remove the guardianship to the jurisdiction of the court of the county in this state in which the ward resides.
(b) Upon the filing of a petition to remove the guardianship to another county in this state, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for the ward. The court of the county in which the guardian was appointed shall grant the petition for removal only if the court determines that the removal is in the best interest of the ward.
(c) Before the removal of the guardianship to another county in this state, the guardian shall file with the court of the county to which the guardianship is to be removed certified copies of all the records pertaining to the guardianship.
(d) Following removal of a guardianship to another county in this state, the court of that county shall have the same jurisdiction over the guardian as if the guardian had been first appointed in that county, and every case growing out of or affecting the guardianship shall be heard and tried only in the county to which the guardianship has been removed.
(e) The court in which an action or proceeding is pending or which has issued an order for a settlement of accounts, removal, or sanction of a guardian shall retain jurisdiction of such matters even though the guardianship has been removed to another county.

Where should a divorce case be filed?

Ga. Const. Art. VI, § II, Para. I provides:
Divorce cases shall be tried in the county where the defendant resides, if a resident of this state; if the defendant is not a resident of this state, then in the county in which the plaintiff resides; provided, however, a divorce case may be tried in the county of residence of the plaintiff if the defendant has moved from that same county within six months from the date of the filing of the divorce action and said county was the site of the marital domicile at the time of the separation of the parties, and provided, further, that any person who has been a resident of any United States army post or military reservation within the State of Georgia for one year next preceding the filing of the petition may bring an action for divorce in any county adjacent to said United States army post or military reservation.

Where should a case be filed relating to land title?

Ga. Const. Art. VI, § II, Para. II provides:
Cases respecting titles to land shall be tried in the county where the land lies, except where a single tract is divided by a county line, in which case the superior court of either county shall have jurisdiction.

Where should a case in equity (such as a case involving a trust) be filed?

Ga. Const. Art. VI, § II, Para. III provides:
Equity cases shall be tried in the county where a defendant resides against whom substantial relief is prayed.

O.C.G.A. § 9-10-30 provides:
All actions seeking equitable relief shall be filed in the county of the residence of one of the defendants against whom substantial relief is prayed, except in cases of injunctions to stay pending proceedings, when the action may be filed in the county where the proceedings are pending, provided no relief is prayed as to matters not included in such litigation, and except in divorce cases, venue in which is governed by Article VI, Section II, Paragraph I of the Constitution of this state.

What if more than one person harmed me? Where should that case be filed?

Ga. Const. Art. VI, § II, Para. IV provides:
Suits against joint obligors, joint tort-feasors, joint promisors, copartners, or joint trespassers residing in different counties may be tried in either county.

O.C.G.A. § 9-10-31 provides:
(a) The General Assembly finds that Paragraph IV of Section II of Article VI of the Georgia Constitution permits a trial and entry of judgment against a resident of Georgia in a county other than the county of the defendant’s residence only if the Georgia resident defendant is a joint obligor, joint tort-feasor, joint promisor, copartner, or joint trespasser.
(b) Subject to the provisions of Code Section 9-10-31.1, joint tort-feasors, obligors, or promisors, or joint contractors or copartners, residing in different counties, may be subject to an action as such in the same action in any county in which one or more of the defendants reside.
(c) In any action involving a medical malpractice claim as defined in Code Section 9-9-60, a nonresident defendant may require that the case be transferred to the county of that defendant’s residence if the tortious act upon which the medical malpractice claim is based occurred in the county of that defendant’s residence.
(d) If all defendants who reside in the county in which an action is pending are discharged from liability before or upon the return of a verdict by the jury or the court hearing the case without a jury, a nonresident defendant may require that the case be transferred to a county and court in which venue would otherwise be proper. If venue would be proper in more than one county, the plaintiff may elect from among the counties in which venue is proper the county and the court in which the action shall proceed.
(e) Nothing in this Code section shall be deemed to alter or amend the pleading requirements of Chapter 11 of this title relating to the filing of complaints or answers.

Someone owes me money on a promissory note or debt instrument. Where should that case be filed?

Ga. Const. Art. VI, § II, Para. V provides:
Suits against the maker and endorser of promissory notes, or drawer, acceptor, and endorser of foreign or inland bills of exchange, or like instruments, residing in different counties, shall be tried in the county where the maker or acceptor resides.

O.C.G.A. § 9-10-32 provides:
Where the maker and endorser of a promissory note who reside in different counties are subjected to an action in the county where the maker resides, as provided by Article VI, Section II, Paragraph V of the Constitution of this state, service of a copy of the original pleading and process on the endorser, as provided in the case of joint obligors and promisors, shall be deemed sufficient.

What is the general rule on where a lawsuit should be filed?

Ga. Const. Art. VI, § II, Para. VI provides:
All other civil cases, except juvenile court cases as may otherwise be provided by the Juvenile Court Code of Georgia, shall be tried in the county where the defendant resides; venue as to corporations, foreign and domestic, shall be as provided by law; and all criminal cases shall be tried in the county where the crime was committed, except cases in the superior courts where the judge is satisfied that an impartial jury cannot be obtained in such county.

What if someone is brought into a case as a third-party?

Ga. Const. Art. VI, § II, Para. VII provides:
The General Assembly may provide by law that venue is proper in a county other than the county of residence of a person or entity impleaded into a pending civil case by a defending party who contends that such person or entity is or may be liable to said defending party for all or part of the claim against said defending party.

Can Courts change venue?

Ga. Const. Art. VI, § II, Para. VIII provides:
The power to change the venue in civil and criminal cases shall be vested in the superior courts to be exercised in such manner as has been, or shall be, provided by law.

O.C.G.A. § 9-10-31.1 provides:
(a) If a court of this state, on written motion of a party, finds that in the interest of justice and for the convenience of the parties and witnesses a claim or action would be more properly heard in a forum outside this state or in a different county of proper venue within this state, the court shall decline to adjudicate the matter under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. As to a claim or action that would be more properly heard in a forum outside this state, the court shall dismiss the claim or action. As to a claim or action that would be more properly heard in a different county of proper venue within this state, the venue shall be transferred to the appropriate county. In determining whether to grant a motion to dismiss an action or to transfer venue under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, the court shall give consideration to the following factors:

(1) Relative ease of access to sources of proof;
(2) Availability and cost of compulsory process for attendance of unwilling witnesses;
(3) Possibility of viewing of the premises, if viewing would be appropriate to the action;
(4) Unnecessary expense or trouble to the defendant not necessary to the plaintiff’s own right to pursue his or her remedy;
(5) Administrative difficulties for the forum courts;
(6) Existence of local interests in deciding the case locally; and
(7) The traditional deference given to a plaintiff’s choice of forum.

(b) A court may not dismiss a claim under this Code section until the defendant files with the court or with the clerk of the court a written stipulation that, with respect to a new action on the claim commenced by the plaintiff, all the defendants waive the right to assert a statute of limitations defense in all other states of the United States in which the claim was not barred by limitations at the time the claim was filed in this state as necessary to effect a tolling of the limitations periods in those states beginning on the date the claim was filed in this state and ending on the date the claim is dismissed.

What about the State-wide business court?

Ga. Const. Art. VI, § II, Para. IX provides:
All cases before the state-wide business court may conduct pretrial proceedings in any county as provided by law. Any trial of a case that is before the state-wide business court shall take place in the county as is otherwise prescribed by this section.

Where should a suit be brought against a non-resident?

O.C.G.A. § 9-10-33 provides:
A person who is not a citizen of this state, passing through or sojourning temporarily in the state, may be subject to an action in any county thereof in which he may be found at the time when the action is brought.

O.C.G.A. § 9-10-93 provides:
Venue in cases under this article shall lie in any county wherein a substantial part of the business was transacted, the tortious act, omission, or injury occurred, or the real property is located. Where an action is brought against a resident of this state, any nonresident of this state who is involved in the same transaction or occurrence and who is suable under the provisions of this article may be joined as a defendant in the county where a resident defendant is suable. Under such circumstances, jurisdiction and venue of the court of and over such nonresident defendant shall not be affected or lost if at trial a verdict or judgment is returned in favor of such resident defendant. If such resident defendant is dismissed from the action prior to commencement of the trial, the action against the nonresident defendant shall not abate but shall be transferred to a court in a county where venue is proper.

Are there statutory definitions defining venue-related terms?

O.C.G.A. § 9-10-34 provides:
(a) As used in this Code section, the term:
(1) “Defending party” means a party to a civil action who is:
(A) A defendant who contends that a person or entity not a party to the action is or may be liable to the defendant for all or part of a plaintiff’s claim against the defendant;
(B) A plaintiff who contends that a person or entity not a party to the action is or may be liable to the plaintiff for all or part of another party’s claim against the plaintiff; or
(C) A third-party defendant who contends that a person or entity not a party to the action is or may be liable to the third-party defendant for all or part of a claim made in the action against the third-party defendant.
(2) “Third-party defendant” means any person or entity whom a defending party contends may be liable to the defending party for all or part of the claim made against the defending party in the action.
(b) The claim of a defending party against a third-party defendant may be tried in the county where the action in which the claim for which the third-party defendant may be wholly or partially liable to the defending party is pending; and such claim may be tried in such county even though the third-party defendant is not a resident of such county.
(c) The venue established under this Code section against a third-party defendant is dependent upon the venue over the defending party who brought the third-party defendant into the action, and if venue is lost over said defending party, whether through dismissal or otherwise, venue shall likewise be lost as to the third-party defendant.

 

 

Start Here

Enter your name and email address to keep up with what’s new at EZ Elder Law!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

[Return to Top]