Steel Serv. Inc., 494 F. Supp. 171, 173 (E.D.N.Y. 1980). See
generally Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 145
comment d, at 417-418 (1971) ("subject to only rare exceptions,
the local law of the state where the conduct and injury
occurred will be applied to determine whether the actor
satisfied minimum standards of acceptable conduct").
This case presents the paradigm situation for application of
New Jersey's law since (1) New Jersey is the situs of the
alleged wrongful acts; and (2) New Jersey has the predominant
interest in regulating the conduct of its property owners, and
its law should govern where the issue is the liability of a
New Jersey landowner with respect to injuries sustained by
third persons on his property.
Plaintiff argues*fn6 that a house guest's luggage also
carries with it his domiciliary state's standard of care. If
this were so, the Defendants could be subject to numerous
different standards of care. At the same time such a theory
would undermine "the locus jurisdiction's interests in
protecting the reasonable expectations of the parties who
relied on it to govern their primary conduct."
Schultz, 65 N.Y.2d at 198, 491 N.Y.S.2d at 96, 480 N.E.2d at
684-85. Under Plaintiff's formulation, the Defendants would
have to familiarize themselves with the standards of care of
each of their guests domiciles and adjust their conduct
accordingly. The Court rejects such a theory. It also rejects
Plaintiff's contention that New York law should govern because
it establishes a higher standard of conduct, thereby affording
greater protection to New York residents who visit other
states, such as Huang. "By entering the state or nation, the
visitor expose[s] himself to the risks of the territory and
should not expect to subject persons living there to a hazard
that their law ha[s] not created." D.F.Cavers, The
Choice-Of-Law, Process (1965).
B. WRONGFUL DEATH
It seems only logical that the Court predicate its decision
with respect to the measure of damages in a wrongful death
action upon interest analysis. The Court so reasons because
while a conduct regulating rule, such as the standard of care,
has a very obvious link to the lex loci, the question of the
measure of damages has a rather attenuated bond with the site
of the injury. The reason for this is the dominant contacts of
the decedent's beneficiaries with their domicile.
In this case the conflict arises because New Jersey has
expanded the scope of permissible recovery in wrongful death
cases beyond the limits that New York recognizes. The
difference is in the measure of damages. While both states
provide compensation for pecuniary injuries resulting from the
decedent's death, N.Y. Est.Powers & Trusts Law § 5-4.3(a)
(McKinney 1981) and N.J.S.A. 2A: 31-1 et seq., only New Jersey
permits juries, under appropriate circumstances, "to award
damages for the parents' loss of their child's companionship."
Green v. Bittner, 85 N.J.1, 424 A.2d 210, 211 (1980).
Under interest analysis, "where the sole issue at bar is the
measure of plaintiff's damages — the court must apply the law
of the place which has the dominant contacts with the parties
and transaction and the superior claim for application of its
law." Babcock, 12 N.Y.2d at 483, 240 N.Y.S.2d at 750, 191
N.E.2d at 284; Gordon v. Eastern Air Lines, Inc., 391 F. Supp. 31,
33 (S.D.N.Y. 1975)
Initially, the Court notes that "[t]he predominant interests
to be served on the issue of damages are those of the states
containing the people or estates which will receive the
recoverable damages, if any,
for their injuries." Manos v. Trans World Airlines, Inc.,
295 F. Supp. 1170, 1173 (N.D.Ill. 1969), (quoted with approval,
Thomas v. United Airlines, Inc., 24 N.Y.2d 714, 724, 301
N YS.2d 973, 979, 249 N.E.2d 755, 759 (1969). In Gordon,
plaintiff's decedent, a New York domiciliary, died in an
airplane crash in Florida. The court was asked to decide
whether Florida or New York law applied with respect to the
issue of damages. As in the instant case, both states provided
the traditional award for damages for pure pecuniary loss but
only Florida provided damages for grief, mental anguish and
loss of companionship. After analyzing the Florida and New York
contacts the court applied New York's wrongful death statute.
The significant contacts were (1) plaintiff's decedent was
domiciled in New York at the time of his death and his estate
proceeding was pending in New York; and (2) decedent's widow —
the plaintiff — was a New York resident. The Florida contacts
— the situs of the accident and the defendant's principal
place of business — were insignificant. Id.
The parallels to the instant action, with one
exception,*fn7 are obvious. At the time of his death Huang
was a New York resident and his estate will be probated in New
York. Furthermore, the Plaintiff, Huang's mother, was, at the
time the action was commenced, and still is a New York
resident. The fact that the Defendants are New Jersey
domiciliaries is not controlling.
With respect to New Jersey's interest, the Green court said
it was "to give juries in wrongful death cases involving
children the same ability to do justice to their parents,
within the limits of existing legislation, as they now have
under our cases when children lose a parent." Green, 424 A.2d
at 211. Implied in Judge Wilentz' holding is that New Jersey
parents will be compensated for the loss of their childrens'
companionship. Under these circumstances "[New Jersey] . . .
could have no interest whatsoever in how much money a New York
jury would award a New York resident in a New York court."
Gordon, 391 F. Supp. at 33.
New York has an interest in protecting its own residents,
whenever possible, "`against' the `unfairness' — if any — of
`anachronistic' foreign laws and from the denial of recovery
under such laws." Gordon, 391 F. Supp. at 34 (citations
omitted). In this instance, application of New York's law will
not result in an anomalous outcome since "New York in [its]
wrongful death statute provide[s] full and adequate
compensation for the beneficiaries of decedents." O'Rourke v.
Eastern Air Lines, 730 F.2d 842, 850 (2d Cir. 1984).
Furthermore, "[i]t is not New York's policy to enhance the
recovery of its residents by the application of more favorable
foreign rule." Gordon, 391 F. Supp. at 34 (citations omitted)
(emphasis in the original).
Finally, in resolving this conflict the Court does not lose
sight of the fact that it must "determine what law New York
Courts would apply in the situation rather than a rule we
might think better or wiser." O'Rourke, 730 F.2d at 842
(quoting Hausman v. Buckley, 299 F.2d 696, 704-705 (2d Cir.),
cert. denied, 369 U.S. 885, 82 S.Ct. 1157, 8 L.Ed.2d 286
(1962). The Court is guided by the fact that "[e]ver since the
wrongful death statute was first enacted in 1847, [it has been]
strictly construed to exclude recovery for grief, loss of
affection and fellowship, and loss of consortium."*fn8 Garland
v. Herrin, 724 F.2d 16, 20 (2d Cir. 1983); Liff v. Schildkrout,
49 N.Y.2d 622, 634, 427 N.Y.S.2d 746, 750, 404 N.E.2d 1288,
1292 (1980); Bumpurs v. New York City Housing Auth.,
139 A.D.2d 438, 527 N.Y.S.2d 217 (A.D. 1 Dep't 1988); Wall v.
Wanser, 24 Misc.2d 132, 203 N.Y.S.2d 938 (1960) (limitation
applies to parents' recovery for loss of their child's
companionship). Obviously New York has a "strong public policy
to `specifically [limit] recovery
in wrongful death actions to pecuniary damages resulting from
decedent's death.'" O'Rourke, 730 F.2d at 850 (quoting Garland,
724 F.2d at 20).
Coupling the fact that New Jersey has at best a minimal
interest in applying its law to the question of damages with
the fact that New York has the predominant interest since it
is the state wherein Huang's beneficiaries reside, the Court
holds that New York's wrongful death statute governs.
For the aforementioned reasons, New Jersey law with respect
to the standard of care and New York law with respect to the
wrongful death statute shall govern in this case.*fn9