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Conflicts of Law
John Marshall Law School, Chicago
Dorn, Alan S.






○ Facts:

■ Plaintiff – Brakeman — Citizen of Alabama

■ Defendant – Alabama Corporation

■ Plaintiff was injured when a link between two of the freight train cars broke – in Mississippi

■ Railroad employees of defendant had a duty to inspect the links

■ Plaintiff sued in Alabama State Court

■ Under the common law

■ Employer’s Liability Act of Alabama

○ Analysis:

■ Cause of action = Tort

■ Critical event = injury

■ Can always have a duty and a breach – but there is no tort without injury

■ Where did event occur = Mississippi

○ Characterization:

■ Plaintiff argued the cause of action was contract

■ Contract occurred in Alabama

■ Should have been Alabama law

■ Court didn’t agree


○ Facts:

■ Plaintiff was an Administrator of an Estate of a deceased woman

■ Defendant was company that manufactured planes

■ Administrator’s daughter and grandchildren were killed in plane crash in Florida

■ Plaintiff sued in Alabama – wrongful death – products liability

○ Procedural History:

■ Plaintiff wanted Alabama law

■ Trial court determined it should be Florida law

■ This was appellate court which affirmed

○ Holding:

■ Upheld principle of lex loci delicti

■ Substantive rights of an injured party according to the law of the state where the injury occurs

■ This was the traditional approach used in Alabama

Milliken v. Pratt CONTRACT CASE

○ Facts:

■ Plaintiffs were creditors in Maine

■ Defendant was the wife of Daniel Pratt

■ Defendant and her husband lived in Massachusetts

■ Defendant’s husband applied for credit with plaintiffs

■ Wife executed a contract

■ Eventually plaintiffs sued wife for money owed

■ Defendant argued that she was domiciled in Mass – and Mass did not let woman enter into contracts

■ Plaintiffs argued contract was enacted in Maine which did allow woman to enter into contracts

○ Analysis:

■ Cause of action = contract

■ Critical event = where the contract was formed

■ Contract was made and performed in Maine

■ Guaranty was delivered to the creditors in Maine

■ Husband ordered the goods from Maine and accepted delivery of goods in Maine

■ Event occurred in Maine


○ Facts:

■ Mary Barrie was a resident of Illinois

■ Executed a will which left her property – including 160 acres in Iowa – to an Illinois Church

■ When she died – the word “VOID” was written on the cover

■ Illinois Supreme Court ruled the will was revoked and distributed the Illinois property to relatives

■ The will was offered to probate in Iowa by the Church

■ The relatives objected saying Illinois ruled the will was revoked

○ Analysis:

■ Cause of action = probate/real estate

■ Event = where the land was located

■ Land was located in Iowa

■ Full Faith and Credit:

■ Requires:

■ Decision on the merits

■ Final Decision

■ Jurisdiction

■ **Illinois did not have jurisdiction to rule on Iowa land

White v. Tennant: — DOMICILE CASE p. 30

○ Facts:

■ Husband died and court had to determine where he was domiciled to determine what state laws governed the distribution of his property.

○ Held:

■ Born and domiciled his whole life in West Virginia.

■ Moved to Pennsylvania with no intention of returning the WV

■ Later his wife became ill and they went to WV to care for her

■ Husband got the same fever and died

■ Estate was divided by laws of WV

■ Court reversed and said he was domiciled in Penn

○ Rule:

■ Domicile:

■ The most recent state where she was:

■ Resided

■ (Easily satisfied – can stay overnight in a hotel and satisfy)

■ With intent to remain indefinitely

■ (Without intent to leave at a definite time)


Exceptions to the Territorial Approach (Escape Devices):


Levy v. Daniels (Characterization from Tort to Contract) p. 39

○ Facts:

■ Driver rented a car from rental company (Daniels)

■ Passenger was in the car when driver left it on the side of the road

■ Second driver ran into the car injuring passenger

■ Passenger sued in Connecticut – Domicile of passenger and defendant

■ Accident occurred in Mass.

■ In Mass – passenger could not sue rental company

■ In Conn. – anyone who rented a car to another was liable for any damages caused by operation of that car

○ Held:

■ Reversed trial court

■ Ruled it should be Conn law because it was the Conn Statute that formed the duty for a tort COA. The Rental agreement incorporated the statute.

■ Duty arises out of K

■ Statute created direct liability – otherwise there would be no tort.

Haumschild v. Continental (Characterization from Tort to Family)

○ Facts:

■ Wife was injured in an automobile accident

■ She sued her husband’s insurance company in Wisconsin

■ Wife and Husband were domiciled in Wisconsin

■ Accident took place in Cal


■ Penn law because wife’s claim arose from husband’s injury in Penn

■ Different then Haumschild: Issue wasn’t spousal immunity, or lack thereof, this issue was the injury

Vest v. St Albans: (not in the book)

○ Facts:

■ Patient was referred to a mental health facility.

■ Claimed his conditioned worsened

■ Wife sued for loss of consortium

■ Plaintiffs domiciled in West Virginia

■ Defendant from Virginia

■ Sued in West Virginia

■ Injury in Virginia

○ Conflict:

■ Virginia law requires proper notice

■ Trial court dismissed because defendant was not properly notified under Virginia law

■ Appellate court reversed – relying on WV law which did not require notice

■ This is not the type of case where a choice needs to be made.

○ Held:

■ WV law Notice Provision = Procedural Issue

■ Virginia medical malpractice review process was too complicated and expensive

*Erie note in this case: often the state procedural issues are so intertwined with substantive rights that a court might apply state procedural law in the face of federal procedural law.

Owen v. Owen: (Guest Statute)

○ Facts:

■ Husband and Wife temporarily moved from S. Dakota to Indiana so husband could complete school

■ Continued paying SD taxes and had SD driver’s licenses

■ Wife was injured in Indiana when husband lost control of car

■ Wife sued in S.D.

○ Held:

■ Trial court applied Indiana law and dismissed complaint because Indiana law did not permit wife to sue husband

■ Appellate court reversed – Indiana law was against public policy of S.D.

■ Guest Statute= friends can’t sue for negligence

■ Policy behind Guest statute is to avoid collusion

■ Arguments against are that the legal system is set up to stop collusion by X-examination

■ Guest statutes create legal fictions

■ South Dakota had a guest statute but repealed it as an “expression” of policy.

■ Allowing policy exception to lex loci maintains certainty, simplicity and ease of application while avoiding decisions that are repugnant to the public policy of the state.

Interest Analysis: (compare to second outline)