Constitutional Obligation to Provide a Forum

Hughes v. Fetter

341 U.S. 609 (1951).

Question and Conflict

Whether the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution overcomes Wisconsin’s policy.

Wisconsin only allows wrongful death claims if the cause of the death occurred in Wisconsin.


Wisconsin’s policy must give way, it is a violation of the Constitution.


All the parties involved were resident’s of Wisconsin. There was a car accident in Illinois resulting in the death of the Hughes. The plaintiff is the administrator of Hughes estate, which was organized in Wisconsin.


Wisconsin doesn’t have an aversion to wrongful death claims, just claims that arise outside of their state. This is an unjustified expectation, Additionally, everything besides the accident was based in Wisconsin, yet the policy would prevent the accident from being adjudicated in Wisconsin. Due to the potential difficulty that may arise from resolving the case elsewhere, the Court says that Wisconsin policy must give way to protect its citizens.

However, the dissent argues there is a rational reason for the policy and it is not responsibility of the Court to determine which policy is better. Additionally, Illinois has the same policy (wrongful deaths out of state are not considered). Thus, if the situation was reversed, Illinois would have had the same result.

Additional Notes

There are two other cases: Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. George, 233 U.S. 354 (1914); Crider v. Zurich Ins. Co., 380 U.S. 39 (1965). In each of these cases, there was a localizing rule. That is, there is a cause of action, but it can only be resolved in the local court. The question is whether a foreign forum can adjudicate the case, despite the localized rule. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the answer is “yes.” A jurisdiction is not allowed to create a cause of action then limit it to only being resolved in its jurisdiction. Other courts can choose to abide by the rule, but they are not required to.

Wells v. Simonds Abrasive Co.

345 U.S. 514 (1953).

Question and Conflict

Whether the Full Faith and Credit clause required Pennsylvania to adopt Alabama’s statute of limitations period.

For the cause of action, Alabama had a two-year limitations period while Pennsylvania had a one-year limitation period.


Pennsylvania may use its statute of limitations period, affirmed.


Wells was killed while working in Alabama. The estate of Wells is not filing suit against the manufacturer of the product that caused the injury. This manufacturer was based in Pennsylvania. The injury occurred over one-year ago but within two-years, meaning the statute of limitations would bar the cause of action in Pennsylvania but not Alabama.

The forum is Pennsylvania federal district court. At trial and on the initial appeal, the court held the case was barred by Pennsylvania’s one-year limitation.


The general principle is that the forum may use its statute of limitations unless there is a good reason not to. Here, the forum treats all claims the same, regardless of whether the claimant is from the forum or elsewhere. Thus, the rule is not unfair to out of state parties.

However, the dissent says application of the majority’s rule is not uniform and allows the plaintiff to forum shop.

Additional Notes on Sister State Instrumentalities

Consider Nevada v. Hall, 440 U.S. 410 (1979); Franchise Tax Bd. of California v. Hyatt, 538 U.S. 488 (2003); Hyatt, 136 US. Ct. 1277 (2016); Hyatt, 139 S. Ct. 1485 (2019).

Essentially, these cases say that if the state interest of the forum is sufficient, then the immunity of another state may not apply. However, if you fail to recognize the immunity of another state, then you also must limit the damages.


The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.

Will Laursen

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