Choosing or Determining the Correct Venue for Your Legal Action

By J.D. Hensarling
Attorney at Law


Lawyers often hear the question, “Where should my lawsuit be filed?”  Or someone might ask, “Was this lawsuit filed in the correct court?”  These are important questions, the answer to which should inform your next steps in a legal matter.

Generally, unless otherwise set by statute, venue is proper (not improper) in the county where the defendant or the plaintiff resides.  N.C.G.S. § 1-82.  However, there are certain actions that must be brought in specific venues.

In a suit to recover real property, or an estate in real property, for injuries to real property, or for a determination of a right in real property, partition of property, foreclosure of a mortgage on real property, or the recovery of personal property when the recovery of the property itself in the sole or primary relief requested, that action must be brought in the county in which the real or personal property is situated at the time the action is commenced.  N.C.G.S. § 1-76.  For example, even the parties might reside in Wake and Durham counties, and the property is located in Alamance County, the action must be brought in Alamance County.

If you are suing to recover a deficiency after real or personal property is sold and satisfies only a portion of the debt, you must bring the suit in the county in which the debtor or its agent resides or in the county where the loan was negotiated.  N.C.G.S. § 1-76.1.

N.C.G.S. § 1-77 allows parties to sue in the county where some or all of an action arose when the suit is (1) for recovery of a penalty or forfeiture imposed by statute, or (2) against a public officer for acts performed in his or her public office.  There is an exception if the penalty or forfeiture is for an offense committed on a sound, bay, river, or other body of water which allows the suit to be brought in any county bordering the water.  N.C.G.S. § 1-77(1).

All actions against executors or administrators in their official capacity or upon official bonds must be filed in the county where the bond was given if the principal or surety of the bond is in the county, if not, in the county of the plaintiff’s residence.  N.C.G.S. § 1-78.

A domestic corporation (formed in North Carolina or maintains a registered office in North Carolina), LPs, LLCs, and LLPs must be sued in the county where the principal office is located, maintains a place of business, or where the organization regularly carries out its business.  N.C.G.S. § 1-79.  A foreign corporation (not formed in North Carolina) may be sued where the cause of action arose, where the company usually does business or owns property, or where the plaintiff resides.  N.C.G.S. § 1-80.

Even after a lawsuit is filed, the Court may have power to change the venue.  Under N.C.G.S. § 1-83, if the county is not a proper one, the case may be moved by court order or consent of the parties after the defendant demands transfer.  The trial court may change the venue (1) when the county is not a proper venue, (2) when the convenience of the witnesses and justice would be served, (3) when the judge has been a party or counsel in the case, or (4) by motion of the plaintiff in a divorce action before the defendant has been served.  N.C.G.S. § 1-83.  In rare cases, a matter may be transferred to a different venue when it is demonstrated that a fair or impartial trial cannot be had.  N.C.G.S. § 1-84.

Please call the attorneys at Vann Attorneys, PLLC to discuss your legal matters, including the proper venue for your matter.

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