Tuesday, April 07, 2009, 10:09 PM

COA: Venue Not Proper In County Where Government Official "Charged With Carrying Out Duties"

Today the COA held that where a public official is a party to an action, venue is proper where the cause of action arose and not where the official is "charged" with his or her duties. The case is Ford v. Paddock.

In this highly-publicized case, a four-year-old child was killed by his adoptive mother. The child's biological father filed a wrongful death suit in Johnston County against both adoptive parents, Wake County Human Services and some of its employees, and the Children's Home Society of North Carolina.

The COA affirmed the denial of defendants' motion to transfer venue to Wake County. The Court first noted that a denial of such a motion affects a substantial right, so review of the interlocutory appeal was proper. The Court reasoned that under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-77, an action against a public officer for acts performed in his or her official capacity “must be tried in the county where the cause, or some part thereof, arose," and that venue was proper in Johnston County because the events surrounding the adoption, mistreatment, and death of the child occurred there. Defendants argued that venue was only proper in Wake County because their decision-making authority was derived from that county and they were "charged" with their duties there. The Court held that the county where a public official's duties originate does not meet the definition of appropriate venue set out in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-77.

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