Lucas Bradley

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A sub-clause of Georgia's business venue statute, as construed in October 2016, violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. That statute, section 14-2-510(b) of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), provides four venues (counties) in which a company can be sued for an act or omission, depending on the kind of act or omission at issue. The first three venue options apply equally to in-state and out-of-state companies. The fourth venue option does not. This fourth option grants in-state companies an unwarranted advantage compared to out-of-state companies and as a result, runs afoul of the Constitution's Dormant (or Negative) Commerce Clause.

That fourth option allows a plaintiff to sue a company in the county where the "cause of action originated." However, the Georgia General Assembly realized this provision might be onerous for a corporate defendant. For example, a company could be sued in a far-flung county where the isolated event triggering a cause of action occurred, so the company would constantly risk being "home-cooked" in remote and hostile counties. Because of this risk, the provision contains a safety valve for the corporate defendant. If the fourth venue option is the sole statutory reason that venue is appropriate in a county, a company can remove the suit back to its "principal place of business." Put simply, if a company is only being sued in County X because County X is where an incident occurred, it can remove the suit back to its home county in Georgia.