Venue: Where Do You File your Case?

faqWhere do I file my case? What is the Venue?

What is Venue?

Venue is the place where a case is heard. A case must be filed in the correct court location and venue.  The appropriate venue must be at  one of the following:

  • Where the Defendant lives or Defendant’s business is located.
  • Where the Plaintiff’s property was damaged.
  • Where the Plaintiff was injured.
  • Where a contract (written or spoken) was made, signed, performed, or broken by the Defendant or where the Defendant lived or did business when the Defendant made the contract.

It’s important to file your case in a court in the appropriate county or venue. When you file your case, you must state on the Plaintiff’s Claim and on the Order to Defendant form why the court where you filed your claim is the proper court.  As a general rule, a case must be filed in the county where the defendant resides.  This promotes fairness, since it’s usually easier for a defendant to defend a case if it’s filed where he or she resides.

Exceptions to the general rule:

The following are some exceptions to the general rule that a case must be filed and heard in the county where the defendant resides:

  • Automobile accident- The claim may be heard in the appropriate county where the accident occurred or where the defendant resides.
  • Contract- The claim may be heard in the county where the contract was entered into, where the contract was to be performed by the defendant, or where the plaintiff is entitled to receive payment, unless the claim arises from a consumer purchase.
  • Consumer purchase (claim by seller)- A claim to enforce a debt arising from a consumer purchase can be filed only in the county (1) where the consumer signed the contract, (2) where the consumer resided when the contract was signed, (3) where the consumer resided when the action was filed, or (4) where the were goods purchased on installment credit are installed or permanently kept.
  • Consumer purchase (claim by buyer)- An action can also be filed in the following localities (1), (2), or (3) immediately above by the consumer against a business firm that provided the consumer goods, consumer services, or consumer credit.  Suit also can be filed by the consumer in any of those locations if the suit is based on a purchase that results from an unsolicited telephone call made by the seller to the buyer (including a situation where a buyer responds by a telephone call or electronic transmission).
What if the defendant is outside the county?

In cases against defendants who live outside the county, the judge must always inquire and determine if the court is a proper court for the case.  If the judge finds that the case wasn’t filed in the proper court/ venue, the judge must dismiss the case without prejudice unless all defendants are present and agree that the case may be heard in that court/venue.

What if there is more than one county or court location where my claim can be properly filed?

If there is more than one county where your claim can be properly filed, you may select the location that is most convenient for you or your witnesses.  If you file in a county in which the defendant doesn’t reside, you must give the defendant a longer period of time for responding to your claim, and it will take longer for your case to get to court for hearing.

For more information or assistance you can contact:
Legal Aid Society of Orange County
2101 N. Tustin Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92705
Phone (714) 571-5277


California Code of Civil Procedure:

Revised 06/12

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