Constitutional limitations on choice of law are primarily found in the Due Process clause and the full faith and credit clauses of the Constitution. Other relevant clauses also include the Equal Protections clause, privileges and immunities clause, and the commerce clause. Below are examples (primarily of Due Process) where these limitations become relevant.

Typically, the courts looking at constitutional issues will follow the law applied by the forum. Essentially, we are asking if there are any other constitutional factors that prevent the forum from applying its law after they have conducted their choice of law analysis.

For due process, we ask: “When may a forum apply its own law to a case with interstate connections?” Is it fair to apply the forum law?

For full faith and credit, we ask: “When must a forum apply another state’s law to an interstate case?” Don’t want to offend or infringe on a sister state’s sovereignty.

So, our analysis will determine:

  1. What law will apply by conducting a choice of law analysis?
  2. Is the result constitutional?

Foundations of Modern Approach

Home Ins. Co. v. Dick

281 U.S. 397 (1930).


Whether Texas can constitutionally apply its law without violating due process.

Conflict: Texas would not allow a contract to limit the statute of limitations to only one year while Mexico would be fine with the provision.


Failure to apply Mexico law would be a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Reversed.


Dick had a tug boat that caught on fire and sunk in Mexican waters. He attempted to file an insurance claim but was denied. This law suit was instigated over a year after the accident occurred. According to the contract between Dick and the insurance companies, a law suit could not be allowed if it was filed later than a year after the accident. This provision was challenged by the Texas statute limiting such contracts. When this case was filed in Texas, the courts applied the Texas statute and held the provision invalid. Upon appeal, the insurance company and garnishees are arguing the statute violates the Due Process clause.

Everything was done in Mexico. The only relation Texas has to the case is the forum.


Four issues are before the court:

First, whether the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction because this is a state matter involving only procedural issues. The court disagrees because this is a contract provision, not merely a procedural limitation because of the effect it has on contracts formed outside the borders of Texas.

Second, whether the statute violated due process. Here, it did. This is because it sought to limit contractual formations made outside of Texas borders. Although Texas may limit contracts made within its borders, it cannot limit contracts made outside of Texas assuming the law another jurisdiction would apply.

Third, whether the contract violated Texas Public Policy. Again, the court refuses to consider public policy. This is because non of the laws governing the contract were Texas laws. Texas is only applicable here because it is the forum. That alone is insufficient to declare a contract void under Texas public policy.

Fourth, whether the full faith and credit clause applies here. This is not relevant because it has already been determined the state provision violated due process.

Additional Notes

Had the defendant had more significant contacts with Texas or the contract was made (or performed) in Texas, the probability of finding due process would have been more significant.

1930’s New Deal

Pacific Employers Ins. Co. v. Industrial Accident Commission

306 U.S. 493 (1939).


Whether full faith and credit requires California to apply Massachusetts law.

It appears the conflict is merely the amount each worker’s compensation act would allow within the state.


California may apply its law.


An employee was employed in Massachusetts and worked primarily in Massachusetts as a chemical engineer there. In the course of regular duties, the employee was sent to a plant in California where he was injured.

California compensation law says that only California law can apply while Massachusetts compensation law says that only Massachusetts law can apply.


The challenge here is that both states have a relationship with the injured employee and employer. So, due process is not an issue. This leaves the court to evaluate the full faith and credit clause.

Because California has a legitimate interest here, Massachusetts cannot project its statute onto California, thus writing the legislation for California.

Additional Notes

Compare this case with Alaska Packers Association v. Industrial Accident Comm’n, where the injury occured in Alaska but the employee, employer, employment contract, and forum were based in California. Which worker’s compensation act applies? Again, California was not constitutionally required to apply Alaska law because it had a legitimate interest in applying its law.

More than one place may have an interest in having their law applied. In those situations, the forum law will govern.

Expansion of Permissive Approach

Watson v. Employers Liability Assurance Corp.

348 U.S. 66 (1954).


Does the full faith and credit clause require Louisiana to apply either Illinois or Massachusetts law.

Conflict: The contract between Toni and Gillette had a no action clause where a plaintiff could not maintain action until settlement arguments were made. Louisiana would not allow such a clause.


Louisiana can apply its law without violating the Constitution.


The plaintiff, domiciled in Louisiana, purchased Toni Home Permanent hair waving product and sustained injuries based on a chemical in the product. As such, Louisiana is the forum.

Toni Home was domiciled in Illinois, this is also the location where the contract between Gillette was delivered and where the product was manufactured.

Gillette is the parent company of Toni, where they negotiated a contract with Toni where it would serve as an insurer.


Due Process: Toni was doing business in Louisiana. Louisiana also has a provision where companies have to agree to the law to conduct business there.

Full Faith and Credit: Louisiana has an interest in having this problem solved there. First, those who are going to be injured are Louisiana residents. Second, there are medical creditors in Louisiana to cover the hospital expenses of those injured in that state. Third, Louisiana has an interest in compensating those injured there (as defined by Louisiana) and making it easier for injured citizens to obtain personal jurisdiction over the manufacturer.

Much of the analysis between due process and full faith and credit is similar (although addressed separately).

Additional Notes

This case is distinguishable from Dick because Louisiana had much more interest in the litigation because there were several more contacts in Louisiana.

Clay v. Sun Ins. Office, Ltd.

377 U.S. 179 (1964).


Whether Florida can apply their law or must they apply Illinois.

Conflict: Florida has a statute that would void a contract that limits the statute of limitations to less than five years. Illinois would enforce the contractual limitation of one year.


Florida may apply its law instead of Illinois.


The plaintiff purchased an insurance policy in Illinois from a British corporation (does business in Illinois and Florida). Since then, the plaintiff moved to Florida, suffered their loss there, and the property covered in the loss was in Florida. As such, Florida became the forum state.

However, the policy limited recovery when a suit is filed after a year.


Due process: There are several contacts in Florida (where there were minimal contacts in Dick). For instance, the property covered was in Florida, the loss occurred in Florida, and the insurance company was licensed to do business in Florida.

Full faith and credit: Although the court does not distinguish the due process and full faith and credit analysis, it is easy to tell that Florida would have a legitimate interest here. These are similar reasons to those in Watson, allowing Florida residents to recover when the company would be expected to experience litigation there.

The Modern Test

Allstate Ins. Co. v. Hague

449 U.S. 302 (1981).


Whether it is unconstitutional for Minnesota to apply its law over Wisconsin’s.

Conflict: Minnesota would permit stacking of uninsured motorist claims while Wisconsin would not.


Nope, application of Minnesota law is fine.


The plaintiff decedent was a resident of Wisconsin, as were all parties involved in the accident. Additionally, the car accident at the center of the litigation occurred in Wisconsin. The other parties had no insurance so the plaintiff descendant wished to collect uninsured motorist claims against their insurance company.

Other pertinent facts include: the plaintiff decedent was employed in Minnesota for over 15 years and would commute to work on the daily; the defendant was an insurer that did business in each state, including Minnesota; the plaintiff moved to Minnesota after the death of her spouse in the car accident.

Minnesota applied the “better law” choice of law approach to determine that Minnesota law should apply.


The question is must Minnesota apply Wisconsin law based on the Due Process Clause or the Full Faith and Credit Clause. There are two principles at stake, whether the defendant had a reasonable expectation of litigation to occur in the forum state (fairness), and whether the forum state has a legitimate interest in resolving the issue in the forum.

Here, the majority combines the two principles together in one analysis to say there are three contacts to satisfy: (1) The plaintiff worked in Minnesota and therefore Minnesota has an interest in protecting its workers, (2) the defendant did business in Minnesota and could expect litigation to arise there, (3) the plaintiff moved to Minnesota after the accident (alone this is not enough, but connected to the others it has weight).

The concurrence wishes the majority would separate out the analysis between due process and full faith and credit but comes to the same result.

However, the dissent says the majority is making meaningful contacts when the relationship is insignificant. (1) The accident and the Minnesota interest are not connected; (2) the defendant does business in all the states, this does not mean a plaintiff can sue any place where the defendant does business; (3) a move after an accident is wholly irrelevant and would encourage forum shopping.

Additional Notes

This case established the Allstate test, which reads:

“For a State’s substantive law to be selected in a constitutionally permissible manner, that State must have a significant contact or significant aggregation of contacts [with the parties and the transaction or occurrence], creating state interests, such that choice of its law is neither arbitrary nor fundamentally unfair.”

This means that you could have enough contacts to find personal jurisdiction but not due process.

Additionally, according to footnote 10, the due process and full faith and credit analysis are no longer separate analysis.

Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Shutts

472 U.S. 797 (1985).


Whether it is unconstitutional to apply Kansas law to all claims within a class action law suit.


The claims arising out of Kansas can apply Kansas law. Other claims must apply other laws where they have a significant connection.


Phillips is subject to regulations. When they increase their prices, they are expected to pay out a royalty to lease holders. In the present instance, Phillips increased prices, put the funds in general finances, and waited for approval from the Federal Power Commission before putting out the royalty. Once the interest rate was approved, the royalty was distributed.

However, Shutts and others didn’t want to wait and filed this class action lawsuit for the delay in getting the royalty sent out. As part of the claim, they expected to collect interest based on the delay. Thus, a class action lawsuit was filed with 28,000 class members.

The lawsuit was filed in Kansas, Phillips conducts business in all 50 states, and there are hundreds of class members in Kansas. However, the vast majority of Phillips leases are outside of Kansas. Only .25% of leases are within Kansas and about 97% of class members are outside of Kansas.


Essentially the Court says those within Kansas have a relationship sufficient enough to apply Kansas law. However, everyone else needs to have other state laws applied (which could be a difference of millions of dollars for Phillips). This is due to the lack of connection they have with Kansas.

Additional Notes

This case may be difficult to reconcile with Allstate. Essentially, the saving grace is that this is a class action. So, the test modifies to address the fairness with each plaintiff class member.

Sun Oil Co. v. Wortman

436 U.S. 717 (1988).


Kansas did not violate the Full Faith and Credit Clause.


Very similar facts as Phillips, same interest rate issue, regulatory issue, etc. This is still in Kansas court. Everything now is dealing with the statute of limitations. Kansas has a longer statute of limitations (5 years), the other states have shorter statutes of limitations. Currently, these claims would be barred in states other than Kansas.

Sun Oil Co. argues that applying Kansas law violates due process and the full faith and credit clauses.


The argument for applying Kansas law is that because statute of limitations are considered procedural, the forum state can apply their statute of limitations.

However, the defendant argues that the modern understanding of statute of limitations are considered substantive. The Court rejects this analysis because the statute of limitations of substance do not apply to conflict of laws analysis. In other words, states are free to determine whether their laws are procedural or substantive. Because the statute of limitations were deemed procedural by Kansas, it is not a violation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause to apply a procedural limitation.

The dissent, however, notes the difficulty in saying the statute of limitations are purely procedural or substantive. With this understanding, it makes sense to apply an Allstate analysis.


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