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Conflict of Laws
Wayne State University Law School
Sedler, Robert A.

CONFLICT OF LAWS (FALL 2015) – Prof Sedler
 
WEEK 1
 
FINAL: 3hr closed book w/ laptop
 
Hypo: Accident in OH among MI residents; OH has an accident limit – explains why we have conflict of law
Jurisdiction: is the case so foreign to the forum that it would violate due process to hold the case there?
Forum non-conveniens: courts may refuse to take jurisdiction over matters where there is a more appropriate forum available to the parties
Laws come from federal, state, local gov’t
American CON theory upon Declaration of Independence, the colonies joined to become a nation so they are sovereign states w/ independent system of law
States don’t depend on Fed CON for source of power
Limits on congressional power due to State’s rights
P’s atty can sue on OH based on forum transaction or in MI based on contact w/ MI
Important factor: is there a difference in the law?Usually one state enacts a statute that changes the CL in that state
Can have conflict btw 2 American states, an American state & Canadian province, and an American state & Foreign state (France)
 
Conflict of Laws – branch of law that determines how the forum will handle the forum element of the case
 
Guest statute – limits liability of the guest passenger
 
Most cases are settled by CL
 
Hypo: Ford designs a car, accident in FL – no difference btw MI tort and FL tort law
FL law was more favorable b/c they how they handled design defect cases
MI law would be more favorable to D b/c the juries awards high damages
 
In conflicts btw American state and foreign state, sometimes may prefer American forum b/c we have juries for civil cases and the juries are believed to award high damages
A forum can ignore the foreign state – English courts did this (only applied English law until the 18th century)
HYPO: in OH, a MI businessman enters into oral K w/ OH resident; K to be performed in OH
Oral K is valid in OH; invalid under MI Statute of Frauds
D could bring case in OH exercising jurisdiction under K law
Best reason for using this forum is b/c the parties made the K in OH and chose to perform the K there, so it should be respected; K should be respected as a sovereign state w/ equally respectable laws
P would bring case in MI b/c the K would be invalid
When 2 sovereign states find their policies in conflict, it should be expected that each state would apply their own law (promotes forum shopping)
 
Multi-state policy: Courts should displace need to apply its own laws for another jurisdiction if it would respect the original intent of the parties and respect the sovereignty of the state
Courts can only exercise jurisdiction when it’s applicable
 
Judgment entered by a foreign court that had jurisdiction should be recognized by an American court
 
HYPO: American rents car in France and has a MVA injuring a French driver
American receives a summons, translated in English, to appear in a French court
 
Yahoo France has a website where people can advertise Nazi stuff which is illegal in France.  Yahoo takes it off the French website, but French people can access it from yahoo.com.  French resident brings a suit against Yahoo in France and the court issues a judgment against Yahoo.  Yahoo would argue First Amendment.
 
UCC contains a choice of law directives.  Due Process can limit choice of law.
 
The Traditional Approach to Choice of Law
This was followed by the courts until the last 50 yrs; fully abandoned in 1982
 
Traditional approach is similar to those followed by many continental countries today
 
Modern approaches in the US have developed has a reaction to the traditional approach
 
Reception: the process of how the laws of one nation are accepted by the law of another nation (Example: case in NY in 1787 – would apply CL of England)
 
Legislative Jurisdiction – something happened in a state; based on the last act necessary for liability
HYPO: 2 MI residents in accident in OH and OH limits liability but MI has full liability
If the case was held in MI, it’s P friendly, and the policy would be advanced by its application in this case à MI would have an interest of having the case held in its state
If the case was held in OH, it’s policy protects D, but having the case in OH wouldn’t advance the policy b/c no OH defendant
If MI has an interest and OH doesn’t, then there is no difference in applying OH law or AK law
Alabama case (p. 7) focused on the last act, which was the accident in MS
 
Traditional choice of law rules should promote uniform result, enhance predictability, and prevent forum shopping
 
Forum Shopping
HYPO: product manufactured in State Y, and shipped and accident occurs in State X injuring Y resident à example of forum selection b/c they have a valid option
Can sue in State Y? Yes, b/c D is from Y
Can sue in State X? Yes, b/c accident occurred there
To pick btw these 2 forums, look to the laws of the state (which is more favorable to you?), next look a venue (where in the state can you sue – urban/rural?) à this is applicable when there is >1 connection btw states, thus P does this research in order to determine the proper state to sue in
 
Alabama Great Southern R.R> Co. v. Carroll (p. 7)
AL – liability; MS – no liability
The injury occurred in MS, but the negligent act occurred in AL
CL – the courts were D sympathetic
Fellow servant rule – the employer was not negligent for harm caused by a fellow servant
AL changed the CL by enacting a statute (2590)
When the statute doesn’t apply, the CL applies residually -> so try to persuade the court not to apply the AL statute
Statutes were presumed not to be applied extra-territorially so it would not be applicable to an accident in MS
No conflict btw the CL of MS and the former CL of AL -> this would be applied if the court determines that the statute doesn’t apply
The CL can always be changed by legislation
The conflict is resolved in favor of MS law b/c the accident occurred there
If the court characterized the Principal Question as a tort – the rule is place of the wrong (MS)
This is a multi-state tort: the negligence occurs in one state and the harm occurs in another
If the court had char

sonable period of time
MI would be the place of K – there would not be a K
 
Place of K is a broad state-selecting rule applied to all Ks
 
HYPO #9 (p. 28)
Place of K – FL b/c 2 business where there when they made the K
What if 2 NY gamblers were in PR (gambling illegal in NY)?
 
In re Barrie’s Estate (p. 28)
Barrie, IL resident executed a will for property in IA
Will was invalid under IL law à heirs win
Will was valid under IA law à beneficiaries (IL church) win
Probate of the will has to be in IA
Under traditional approach, succession of land is governed by where the land is located (situs) – IA applied their own law to determine the validity of the will
Personal property = movables; governed by the last place of the owner’s domicile
Land = immovable
The IL judgment re: will was not entitled to full faith and credit about the land b/c they didn’t have jurisdiction over the land
Issue w/ validity to the land as respect to the land was not before the IL court; they only decided if it was valid w/ respect to the movables
The place of situs would have an interest in apply their laws on the rule of perpetuities
Apply this law produces a functional policy when there is a land utilization policy issue
Should not be done where the matter in issue involved a land utilization policy of the situs à not an issue here b/c the land is not located in the same state as the domicile
Where domiciled should be used for land and movables
HOLDING: will valid
 
Cammell v. Sewell (p. 32)
Owner was in England; Transferee was in England
Ship crashed off the coast of Norway
Captain sold the cargo and buyer bought it in Norway
Sale to buyer – valid in Norway
Dispute btw transferee and buyer came up in England where captain would not have authority to sell the cargo – sale invalid
Traditional approach – land and movables are under the exclusive control of the land of the situs (Norway)
Looking to the land of situs is logical b/c parties need to know where they can exact the law; parties in the land of the situs know where they can sale the land or not
 
HYPO: nephew claims uncle left him property
Constructive Trust – courts will treat the property like it’s a trust
MA – land of the situs; no constructive trust
CT – does allow constructive trust and where owner and claimants are located
Land is in MA so nephew brings case here
Wouldn’t apply the land of the situs rule b/c it would produce a functional result