The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the defendants’ motion to change venue in this traffic accident case should not have been granted. Even though the accident didn’t occur in New York County and defendant corporation did not have an office in New York County, the certificate of incorporation designated New York County as the location of its principal office and the certificate controls:
Plaintiff properly placed venue in New York County based upon the corporate defendant’s initial certificate of incorporation designating New York County as the location of its principal office although the company has no office there (see CPLR 503 [c] …).
While defendants annexed to their moving papers the police report for the subject motor vehicle accident indicating that defendants’ vehicle was registered to a Nassau County address on the day of the accident and an affidavit from the corporate defendant’s Vice President averring that its office was in Nassau County when the action was commenced, the corporate residence designated in the initial certificate of incorporation controls for venue purposes … . There was no evidence of an amended certificate of incorporation that changed the principal place of business to Nassau County.
The general rule is that a transitory action, such as the subject motor vehicle accident, when other things are equal, should be tried in the county where the cause of action arose … . This rule, however, is predicated on the convenience of material nonparty witnesses who are to be present at trial … . While the situs of the accident provides a basis to change venue to Nassau County, defendants failed to sustain their burden, as the party moving for a discretionary change of venue pursuant to CPLR 510 (3), that there are material witnesses who would be inconvenienced by a trial in New York County … . Marte v Lampert, 2023 NY Slip Op 00375, First Dept 1-26-23
Practice Point: Here the traffic accident happened in Nassau County where defendant corporation had an office. But defendant’s certificate of incorporation indicated defendant’s principal office was in New York County. The certificate controls, even though the defendant corporation did not actually have an office in New York County.