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GRANT E. DU BOIS v. ALAN E. SIEWERT (09/27/68)

SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, NIAGARA COUNTY 1968.NY.42931 <http://www.versuslaw.com>; 293 N.Y.S.2d 802; 57 Misc. 2d 881 September 27, 1968 GRANT E. DU BOIS, AN INFANT, BY EDWIN DU BOIS, HIS FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,v.ALAN E. SIEWERT, DEFENDANT Boniello, Gellman, Halpern, Anton & Kellick (Harold M. Halpern of counsel), for plaintiff. Runals, Broderick, Shoemaker, Rickert, Runals & Berrigan (Patrick J. Berrigan of counsel), for defendant. Frank J. Kronenberg, J. Author: Kronenberg


Frank J. Kronenberg, J.

Author: Kronenberg

 Plaintiff has instituted an action to recover for personal injuries sustained as a result of an accident occurring in Ohio on March 14, 1965.

Defendant by his answer alleges that the action is barred by reason of the Guest Statute of the State of Ohio.

Defendant by motion for partial summary judgment requests an order of this court determining that the Ohio Guest Statute is applicable. Plaintiff contends that the Guest Statute does not apply but that under the conflicts of law doctrine, the law of the State of New York governs.

Plaintiff at the time of the accident was domiciled and was a permanent resident of New York. The defendant at the time of the accident was also domiciled and a permanent resident of New York.

Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle owned by the defendant, which vehicle was registered under the laws of New York and therefore, insured under the laws of New York.

Plaintiff and defendant both were students at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. On a weekend in March, 1965 plaintiff and defendant returned together to their homes in Niagara Falls, New York, from Capital University. On Sunday, March 14, 1965 the defendant made arrangements to pick up the plaintiff at the latter's home in Niagara Falls, New York, for the purpose of returning to college. Before reaching their destination the accident in question occurred in Ohio.

Plaintiff is uncertain whether defendant offered a ride to plaintiff on this week or whether plaintiff heard that the defendant was going home and asked for the ride but plaintiff "imagined" that he asked defendant for a ride. Two other young men accompanied plaintiff and defendant; one, an Ohio resident, was a guest at plaintiff's home, and the other returned to his own home at Sanborn, New York. Prior to the historic decision of Babcock v. Jackson (12 N.Y.2d 473 [1963]), New York applied the substantive law of the place of the commission of the tort in conflict of laws cases dealing with personal injury arising out of tortious conduct. If an accident occurred in Ohio, that fact alone required the application of Ohio law.

The Babcock case (supra) changed the "mechanical formula" previously applied to tort cases to a "center of gravity" or "grouping of contacts" doctrine similar to the New York conflicts rule applied to contract cases (i.e., Auten v. Auten, 308 N. Y. 155 [1954]).

In the Babcock case (supra) three Rochester, New York residents left Rochester for a week-end trip to Canada. Miss Babcock was a guest in the Jackson car and while in Ontario, Canada was involved in a one car accident.

An action was instituted in New York and the Ontario Guest Statute, which absolutely bars recovery to injured guests, served as the basis of defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint. Special Term dismissed the complaint and was affirmed by the Appellate Division but the Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated the complaint.

The majority of the court, in adopting a "grouping of contacts" theory, noted that the injuries were sustained by a New York guest as the result of the negligence of a New York motorist in operating a New York automobile in the course of a weekend journey that was to begin and end in New York. (The case before us began and ended in Ohio.)

The court found that the "rules of the road" of Ontario were to be applied in determining negligence; however, they did not perceive that Ontario had any interest, under the facts of the case, in applying its Guest Statute, allegedly enacted to protect Ontario insurance carriers from fraudulent claims.

In holding that the legal implications of the host-guest relationship were governed by New York law, the court stressed ...


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