October 2017 – Choice of Venue Update

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In civil actions, venue refers to the correct county in which to bring an action. In New York State, in the absence of a prior agreement, the options on where to place venue for a lawsuit have been restrictive.  Other than for controversies concerning ownership or use of property, or against governmental entities, choice of venue was limited to the county of residence of one of the parties.

Effective October 23, 2017, an amendment to section 503 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules has been “chaptered” regarding choice of venue in New York State. As such, Subdivision (a) of section 503 has been amended to read as follows:

(a)  Generally.  Except where otherwise prescribed by law, the place of trial shall be in the county in which one of the parties resided when it was commenced; the county in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred; or, if none of the parties then resided in the state, in any county designated by the plaintiff.  A party resident in more than one county shall be deemed a resident of each such county.

The amendment seeks to rectify past problems that would arise if both plaintiff and defendant are residents of a different county from the county in which the cause of action arose. In that case, proper venue would have been either in the county of residence of the plaintiff or defendant, but not where the incident occurred. Meaning, absent residence of a party in the subject county, that county’s court system had no authority to hear controversies about unsafe premises, unsafe work sites, unsafe driving and a myriad of other scenarios within its borders. Nor were jurors from the subject community, with the most interest in setting community standards, able to hear such controversies. In addition, witnesses are often located in county where the events that are the subject of the action occurred.

This amendment to section 503 of the CPLR will also bring New York into conformance with federal courts which currently allow venue in “a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) (2).