Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-22-00916-CV (January 17, 2023)
Justices Pedersen (Opinion, linked here), Goldstein, and Smith
When a defendant challenges venue, the plaintiff has the burden of presenting a prima facie case that venue is proper in the county in which it brought the lawsuit. Any venue facts pleaded by the plaintiff and not specifically denied by the defendant are treated as true. As to venue facts the defendant has specifically denied, the plaintiff must submit affidavits and documents authenticated by its affidavits to support its pleaded venue facts. Deere specifically denied the plaintiffs’ pleaded venue facts, so the plaintiffs had the burden of establishing a prima facie case that Deere had a principal office in Dallas County.
The venue statute defines “principal office” as the “a principal office of the corporation … in this state in which the decision makers for the organization within this state conduct the daily affairs of the organization.” A principal office must have decision makers for the company who have at least substantially equal authority and responsibility to other company officials in Texas. The plaintiffs submitted evidence that Deere operates a 230,000-square-foot regional distribution center in Dallas County that distributes parts to dealers in several states. The manager of the distribution center supervises over fifty-five employees, including several employees who themselves have supervisory responsibilities, and the manager does not report to anyone above him in Texas. The court of appeals concluded that these facts established that the Dallas County distribution center was “a principal office” in Texas and therefore affirmed the trial court’s denial of the motion to transfer.