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Georgia Court of Appeals Identifies Limits on Defendant Business Entity's Ability to Remove an Action to the County of its Principal Place of Business

February 9, 2018

 

            In the Georgia Court of Appeals, the issue presented to the Court was whether a domestic motor carrier retains the right to remove a case under OCGA § 14-2-510(b)(4), due to its status as a business entity, when venue is predicated on OCGA § 40-1-117(b).  Blakemore v. Dirt Movers, Inc., 2018 WL 359951 (Ga. Ct. App. 2018).  Following the death of her daughter in a motor vehicle accident, Natasha Blakemore filed a wrongful death action against Dirt Movers, its driver, and its liability insurance carrier in the State Court of Bibb County.  Blakemore established that Dirt Movers was a domestic corporation engaged in interstate commerce and registered with, licensed by, and insured in accordance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  Dirt Movers acknowledged that the accident occurred in Bibb County; however, its principal place of business and registered agent were located in Jeff Davis County.  As a result, Dirt Movers filed a notice of removal to Jeff Davis County.

 

            Blakemore claimed that venue was proper under the Georgia Motor Carrier Act because her cause of action arose in Bibb County. See OCGA § 40-1-117(b).  Dirt Movers attempted to remove the suit based on OCGA § 14-2-510(b)(4), which permits a business entity to remove an action “to the county in Georgia where [it] maintains its principal place of business.” However, OCGA § 14-2-510(b)(4) limits the right of removal to cases in which “venue is based solely on this paragraph.”  Therefore, Blakemore claimed Dirt Movers’ notice of removal was improper because venue was based, at least in part, on a separate and distinct provision governing motor carriers.  Dirt Movers admitted that Blakemore’s complaint established venue under the Motor Carrier Act. Accordingly, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that the plain language of OCGA § 14-2-510(b)(4) limited Dirt Movers’ right of removal because venue was proper in Bibb County under a separate and distinct provision.

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