On rule to show cause why venue should not be changed.
For the rule, William F. Hanlon, John Milton and De Voe Tomlinson.
Contra, David A. Veeder and Percy Camp.
Before Justices Lloyd, Case and Donges.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
DONGES, J. This is a rule to show cause why the venue should not be changed from Ocean county in twenty-two cases against the defendant, Central Railroad Company of New Jersey, by various plaintiffs. The actions arise out of damage to real property of the plaintiffs caused by a forest fire alleged to have resulted from the negligence of the defendant. The actions are, therefore, local.
Two questions are sought to be presented. First, may the court change the venue in a local action? Second, has the defendant made out a case calling for such a change, the allegation being a general feeling throughout the county that the defendant caused the fire, and even if it did not it should be required to pay because it is a wealthy corporation and the plaintiffs are individuals of more modest means.
Section 201 of the Practice act of 1903 provides that local actions shall be tried in the county where the lands in question
are situate or where the cause of action arose, unless tried at the bar of the Supreme Court by order of that court.
Section 202 is the familiar section providing for the venue in transitory actions, and section 203 says:
"In actions pending in the Supreme Court, a justice in vacation on application of any party on notice and for good cause may grant a rule to show cause at the next term why the venue should not be changed to some other county than that in which it is laid in the declaration, and for the taking of depositions to be used on the argument of such rule, which rule shall be granted with or without a stay of proceedings, as such justice may direct."
In Defiance Fruit Co. v. Fox, 76 N.J.L. 482, the plaintiff claimed that by the damming of a stream the defendant had caused damage to lands of plaintiff in Cumberland county as well as to lands in Salem county. It brought an action in Cumberland county for the damage to its lands there, and another in Salem county for the damage to its lands in that county. Mr. Justice Trenchard made an order consolidating the causes by discontinuing the Salem action and amending the Cumberland suit to claim all the damage. ...