Jurisdiction and Conflict of Law

Author: LegalEase Solutions

QUESTIONS PRESENTED

  1. What are the possible claims on the given facts?
  2. Where does jurisdiction lie?
  3. Which state’s law controls?

SUMMARY

 The possible claims on the given facts include a personal injury lawsuit (e.g. negligence), a claim on the individuals’ insurance policies, including damages for the recovery of medical expenses, pain and suffering, attorney’s fees, and possibly other non-economic damages depending on the accident circumstances and the extent of the injuries. Ohio state courts have jurisdiction in the instant matter. The jurisdiction of that court over out of state residents depends on whether the matter falls within the state’s long arm statute and applicable civil law. Civ.R. 4.3 and R.C. 2307.382 govern personal jurisdiction in Ohio courts. Per R.C. § 4515.01, the Ohio court has jurisdiction to hear the case, Ohio being the place of injury. The law of the state of Ohio applies to the given facts absent a compelling reason to apply another state’s law.

RESEARCH FINDINGS

  1. What are the possible claims on the given facts?

The possible claims on the given facts are as follows:

An Action in Negligence for Personal Injury

Section 146 of 1 Restatement of the Law 2d, Conflict of Laws (1971) 430, provides:

“In an action for a personal injury, the local law of the state where the injury occurred determines the rights and liabilities of the parties, unless, with respect to the particular issue, some other state has a more significant relationship under the principles stated in § 6 to the occurrence and to the parties, in which event the local law of the other state will be applied.”

A Claim on the Parties’ Insurance Policies

As to insurance cases, the Ohio Supreme Court has stated . . . that the rights created by an insurance contract should be determined ‘by the law of the state which the parties understood was to be the principal location of the insured risk during the term of the policy, unless . . . some other state has a more significant relationship to the transaction and the parties.’ ” Ohayon v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Illinois (2001), 91 Ohio St.3d at 479, 747 N.E.2d 206, (quoting Restatement 188). Humbert v. United Ohio Ins. Co., 2003-Ohio-4356, ¶ 10, 154 Ohio. App. 3d 540, 543, 798 N.E.2d 25, 27.

Damages for Medical Expenses

“[W]hen a jury awards medical expenses, ‘some award for pain and suffering should be rendered […] as it is only reasonable to conclude that if there are legitimate medical expenses there must have been some pain and suffering for a plaintiff to seek medical treatment in the first instance.’” Guckes v. Feusner, (3rd Dist.1996), No.5–95–39 [1996 WL 165542]. Hacker v. Roddy, 2013-Ohio-5085, ¶ 17.

Attorney’s Fee

Any Intangible Loss/Non-Economic Damages

Pain and Suffering

“It is well settled in law that physical pain and suffering is a proper element of damages.” Oglesby v. City of Cleveland, 181 N.E.2d 289, 290 (Ohio Ct. App. 1962).

“Expert medical testimony is not required in every case to determine the extent of a person’s injuries and pain and suffering.” Turner v. Barrett, 68 Ohio. App. 2d 80, 81, 426 N.E.2d 1193, 1194 (Ohio Ct. App. 1980).

“It is for the trier of fact to determine the amount of damages to be awarded for pain and suffering.” Turner v. Barrett, 68 Ohio. App. 2d 80, 81, 426 N.E.2d 1193, 1194 (Ohio Ct. App. 1980).

  1. Where does jurisdiction lie?

Ohio

Where nonresident of Ohio sues another nonresident in Ohio court for damages for injuries arising from automobile accident which occurred in this state, case is governed by both substantive and procedural laws of Ohio. (See Schiltz v. Meyer (Ohio 1972) 29 Ohio St.2d 169, 280 N.E.2d 925, 58 O.O.2d 391).

Actions for injury to a person or property, caused by the negligence of the owner or operator of a motor vehicle, may be brought by the person injured against such owner or operator in the county in which such injury occurred. A summons in such action against any defendant shall be issued to the sheriff of any county within this state in which such defendant resides and may be served as in other civil actions.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4515.01.

R.C. § 4515.01 provides that an action against the operator of a motor vehicle may be brought by the person injured in the county in which ‘said injury occurs.’ Zimmerman v. Rockford Stone Co., 29 O.O.2d 32, 196 N.E.2d 474, 475 (Ohio Com. Pl. 1963).

“Under the due process clause, a court obtains either specific or general jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia v. Hall (1984), 466 U.S. 408, 414, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404, fns. 8 and 9. Specific jurisdiction exists when a plaintiff’s controversy is related to or arises out of the defendant’s contact with the forum state. General jurisdiction exists when a court exercises personal jurisdiction over a defendant in a suit not arising out of or not related to the defendant’s contacts with the forum state.” Joffe v. Cable Tech, Inc., 2005-Ohio-4930, ¶ 27, 163 Ohio App. 3d 479, 491, 839 N.E.2d 67, 75.

“The determination whether an Ohio court has personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant requires a two-step inquiry. First, the court must determine whether the defendant’s conduct falls within Ohio’s long-arm statute or the applicable civil rule. Kentucky Oaks Mall Co. v. Mitchell’s Formal Wear, Inc., 53 Ohio St.3d 73, 75, 559 N.E.2d 477 (1990). If it does, then the court must consider whether the assertion of jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant would deprive the defendant of due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Id. Fraley v. Estate of Oeding, 2014-Ohio-452, ¶ 12, 138 Ohio St. 3d 250, 252.

Civ.R. 4.3 and R.C. 2307.382 govern the personal jurisdiction of the Ohio courts.

A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person who acts directly or by an agent, as to a cause of action arising from the person’s:

(3) Causing tortious injury by an act or omission in this state.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2307.382 (West)

The Ohio Supreme Court has stated that “R.C. 2307.382(A)(1) and Civ.R. 4.3(A)(1) are very broadly worded and permit jurisdiction over nonresident defendants.”  Kentucky Oaks Mall Co. v. Mitchell’s Formal Wear, Inc. (1990), 53 Ohio St.3d 73, 75, 559 N.E.2d 477.

“Due process mandates that a court exercise jurisdiction only if the defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with the state that summoning the party to Ohio would not offend the ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.’ Internatl. Shoe Co. v. Washington (1945), 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95. In determining whether a defendant has the necessary minimum contacts with the forum, a court should consider ‘the number of contacts, the nature and quality of the contacts, the source and connection between the cause of action and the contacts, the interest of the forum state[,] and the convenience of the parties.’” M & W Contrs., Inc. v. Arch Mineral Corp. (S.D.Ohio 1971), 335 F.Supp. 972, 973–974. Muzzin v. Brooks, 2006-Ohio-3844, ¶ 19, 168 Ohio. App. 3d 231, 237, 859 N.E.2d 584, 588-89. 

  1. Which state’s law controls?

The law of the state of Ohio applies because it is the situs of the accident. This consideration controls choice of law absent a compelling reason for the Ohio state court to displace its own law and apply another state’s law.

Relevant Law

 

Section 6 of 1 Restatement of the Law 2d, Conflict of Laws 10, provides as follows:

“(1) A court, subject to constitutional restrictions, will follow a statutory directive of its own state on choice of law.

“(2) When there is no such directive, the factors relevant to the choice of the applicable rule of law include

“(a) the needs of the interstate and international systems,

“(b) the relevant policies of the forum,

“(c) the relevant policies of other interested states and the relative interests of those states in the determination of the particular issue,

“(d) the protection of justified expectations,

“(e) the basic policies underlying the particular field of law,

“(f) certainty, predictability and uniformity of result, and

“(g) ease in the determination and application of law to be applied.”

 

Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 145 (1971)

 

(1) The rights and liabilities of the parties with respect to an issue in tort are determined by the local law of the state which, with respect to that issue, has the most significant relationship to the occurrence and the parties under the principles stated in § 6.

(2) Contacts to be taken into account in applying the principles of § 6 to determine the law applicable to an issue include:

  • (a) the place where the injury occurred,
  • (b) the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred,
  • (c) the domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the parties, and
  • (d) the place where the relationship, if any, between the parties is centered.

These contacts are to be evaluated according to their relative importance with respect to the particular issue.

“Absent an effective choice of law by the parties, pursuant to Section 188 of the Restatement, the parties’ rights and duties under the contract are determined by the law of the state that has ‘the most significant relationship to the transaction and the parties’. Ohayon v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Illinois (2001), 91 Ohio St.3d 474, 747 N.E.2d 206. Section 188(2) provides that, in making this determination, courts should consider (1) the place of contracting, (2) the place of negotiation, (3) the place of performance, (4) the location of the subject matter, and (5) the domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation, and place of business of the parties. Ohayon, 91 Ohio St.3d at 479, 747 N.E.2d 206.  Humbert v. United Ohio Ins. Co., 2003-Ohio-4356, ¶ 10, 154 Ohio. App. 3d 540, 543, 798 N.E.2d 25, 27.

“In choice-of-law situations, the procedural laws of the forum state, including applicable statutes of limitations, are generally applied. See Barile v. Univ. of Virginia (1986), 30 Ohio App.3d 190, 194, 30 OBR 333, 336, 507 N.E.2d 448, 451; Howard v. Allen (1972), 30 Ohio St.2d 130, 59 O.O.2d 148, 283 N.E.2d 167. An Ohio forum court must, however, give effect to the substantive law of the state with the most significant contacts to the case.” Lawson v. Valve-Trol Co., 81 Ohio. App. 3d 1, 4, 610 N.E.2d 425, 426 (1991).

“When confronted with a choice-of-law issue in a tort action under the Restatement of the Law of Conflicts view, analysis must begin with Section 146. Pursuant to this section, a presumption is created that the law of the place of the injury controls unless another jurisdiction has a more significant relationship to the lawsuit. To determine the state with the most significant relationship, a court must then proceed to consider the general principles set forth in Section 145. The factors within this section are: (1) the place of the injury; (2) the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred; (3) the domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation, and place of business of the parties; (4) the place where the relationship between the parties, if any, is located; and (5) any factors under Section 6 which the court may deem relevant to the litigation. All of these factors are to be evaluated according to their relative importance to the case.” Morgan v. Biro Mfg. Co., 15 Ohio St. 3d 339, 342, 474 N.E.2d 286, 289 (1984).

Ohio follows the rule that when the parties have specifically designated a forum other than the place of performance, the parties’ choice-of-law provisions are enforceable unless “the chosen state has no substantial relationship to the parties or the transaction and there is no other reasonable basis for the parties’ choice, or application of the law of the chosen state would be contrary to the fundamental policy of a state having a greater material interest in the issue than the chosen state and such state would be the state of the applicable law in the absence of a choice by the parties.” Century Bus. Servs., Inc. v. Barton, 2011-Ohio-5917, ¶ 62, 197 Ohio. App. 3d 352, 366, 967 N.E.2d 782, 793 (quoting Schulke Radio Prods., Ltd. v. Midwestern Broadcasting Co. (1983), 6 Ohio St.3d 436, 453 N.E.2d 683, syllabus).

Also, “When an Ohio resident is injured in an automobile accident in a no-fault insurance state, by a resident of that state who is insured under that state’s no-fault insurance laws, the Ohio resident’s legal right to recover from the tortfeasor-motorist must be determined with reference to the no-fault state’s laws. Where the no-fault state does not recognize a claim against the tortfeasor-motorist, the Ohio insured is not entitled to collect uninsured motorist benefits from his own insurer.” Malakpa v. Red Cab Co., 72 Ohio Misc. 2d 27, 31, 655 N.E.2d 458, 461 (Com. Pl. 1995).