Although traditional choice of law methods are generally considered outdated, there are a few states that still adhere to the principles in torts.
Alabama Great Southern Railroad v. Carroll
97 Ala. 126 (1892).
Carroll is the plaintiff while the Alabama Railroad is the defendant.
Whose laws apply, Alabama’s or Mississippi’s?
For an unintentional tort, such as negligence, the choice of law will be where the injury was inflicted or felt.
No injury occurred in Alabama, but in Mississippi. Therefore, the choice of law will be Mississippi. Because Mississippi does not allow for a plaintiff to recover for the injuries caused by the negligence of a co-worker, there can be no recovery.
The plaintiff is domiciled in Alabama and entered into a contract with the defendant railroad company in Alabama (also domiciled in Alabama). The railroad travels from Alabama to Mississippi, where the plaintiff worked as a brakeman for the defendant. Along the way, a link broke, causing an accident resulting in fatal injuries to the plaintiff. It was the responsibility of another coworker to check the links for damages, and replacing them if there were any. Unfortunately for the plaintiff, the co-worker failed to do this responsibility.
Alabama law would have held the defendant liable for the actions of a servant within the scope of work. However, Mississippi would not hold the defendant liable for the actions of a fellow servant.
Each state has the sovereignty to choose the laws for themselves. Although the contract was in Alabama, the parties from Alabama, and the negligence occurring in Alabama, no injury actually occurred (or was even inflicted) within the state. As such, the plaintiff has no recourse in Alabama and must rely on Mississippi law for a remedy. Here, Mississippi did not provide a remedy. Consequently, the plaintiff was out of luck.
Compare this case to Levy v. Daniels’ U-Drive Auto Renting Co., 108 Conn. 333 (1928). In that case, a car rental company contractually agreed to be vicariously liable for an accident caused in their car (Conn had the law and the parties agreed to follow that law).
Also consider the following sections from the First Restatement of Conflicts: §§377-79, 382, 384-87, 390-91, 398-99, 412, and 421. Essentially, these sections say, for tort, “the last event necessary to make an actor liable.” As in Carroll, this is where the injury occurs “the place of the wrong”.
Bullard v. MRA Holding, LLC
292 Ga. 748 (2013).
Bullard is the plaintiff who won at the trial level.
Whose law governs, Georgia’s (where the injury was felt) or Florida’s (where the tortious actions occurred)?
The place where the last event occurred to make an actor liable is the place where a remedy can be found. Typically, this is the place where the injury is felt.
The plaintiff felt her injury in Georgia and can therefore apply Georgia law.
The plaintiff was a 14 year old girl who exposed herself to men in Florida while on Spring Break. She knew the men were filming her. However, she did not give permission for the film to be shared with others. The film was shared and distributed nationwide (including in Georgia) as a pornographic work. Consequently, as a resident and student of Georgia, the plaintiff was humiliated in that state. So, she sued for appropriation of likeness in Georgia.
Georgia offers a recovery for appropriation of likeness while Florida does not.
This case was originally filed in a federal court. According to Klaxon v. Stentor, the federal courts will follow the choice of law of the state where the federal court is located.
Georgia says that they will follow the laws of the jurisdiction where the tort occurred.
Although the filming occurred in Florida, the injury was felt primarily in Georgia. Thus, the Georgia court says that the tort occurred in Georgia. As a result, the plaintiff could have a cause of action within Georgia.
A couple issues arise considering how this is an intentional tort. Because this is intentional, should the tortfeasor be sued in the place where the intent occurred? Also, the issue with intentional torts is that it can induce forum shopping, something the courts generally oppose.
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.