Citation Exercise



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Citation Exercise

(44 points)

Using your Bluebooks and notes, please correct the numbered citations in this memo. Not all citations are limited to one error, and you should be attentive to problems with format, reporters, appropriate font, punctuation, abbreviation (pay close attention to Rule 10.2.2), rules for quotations, introductory signals, parentheticals, and string cites. (In short, make them completely correct.) Pay close attention to 17-20 which has/have many more than just three problems. Your answers may be written at the end of the document, or on separate paper, or corrected within the document. You may make up missing information or indicate that it is missing. Please work alone.

Background

Residents of England rented a car in New Jersey, drove the car into New York, and were in an automobile accident in New York. The car was registered in New Jersey, and the supplemental liability policy procured for the car (later found to be defective) was purchased at the rental agency in New Jersey. The accident in New York was with a New York resident driving a vehicle registered in New York. The question has been posed as to whether the law of the state of New York (which would impose vicarious liability on the rental agency) would be applied assuming a suit is brought in New York.

Law and Explanation

In New York, courts apply a "significant relationship" or "substantial contacts" test when determining what law governs a particular situation. (1) Contra Babcock v. Joe Jackson, 191 N.E.2d 279, 281 (N.Y. S.Ct. 1963). The courts apply this test in both tort matters and contractual interpretation matters. (2) Id. at 281. Consequently, even if a contract is entered into in a state other than New York (such as the rental contract in New Jersey), New York law may still be applied in determining what liability there should be. If New York is found to have the most "significant relationship" to the matter, vicarious liability will be imposed despite the original contract perhaps being defective under New Jersey law.

The Supreme Court of New York adopted the significant relationship test for tort cases in Babcock. In (3) Dym v. Gordon, 16 N.Y.2d 120, 209 N.E.2d 792 (1965), the court elaborated on the Babcock decision and commented,

(4) ". . .this process requires us first to isolate the issue, next to identify the policies embraced in the laws in conflict, and finally to examine the contacts of the respective jurisdictions to ascertain which has a superior connection with the occurrence and thus would have a superior interest in having its policy or law applied."

New York courts have rejected a "quantitative" approach to assessing contacts (5) – Inuwe v. Crichton, 228 N.E.2d 799 (N.Y. 1967), but early on adopted a "qualitative" approach to assessing contacts. (6) Kelly v. Clarkson, 236 N.E.2d 152, 156 (New York 1968). The court of (7) Kelly v. Clarkson, 236 N.E.2d at 154 (1968) stated,

(8) As between two states, the law of that one which has the predominant, if not the sole, interest in the protection and regulation of the rights of the person or persons involved should, of course, be invoked.

The New York Supreme Court refined this test to include three primary queries when a plaintiff attempts to invoke the vicarious liability law of New York. (9) Neumeier v. Kuehner, (N.Y. 1984) 286 N.E.2d 454.

Despite what appears to be a complex inquiry, the general rule in New York is that when various states appear to have an interest in the litigation, the law of the state of the site of the accident will prevail unless there is some overriding public policy reason to apply the law of another state. (10) See also Cooney v. Osgood Machinery Co., Inc., 612 N.E.2d 277, 284 (N.Y. 1993).

Vicarious liability under § 388 may be invoked as long as the vehicle in question has been "used or operated" within the state, even when an accident occurs outside of New York. (11) Babcock v. Jackson, 191 N.E.2d 279 (N.Y. 1963) (the court held that the significant relationship test would be adopted).

For the most part, New York courts do not really face a true choice-of-law issue unless the

accident in question occurs outside of New York. Although New York courts have stated that their main interest is in protecting New York residents, the courts will always lean toward the application of New York law as long as the accident occurred in New York. This is true regardless of the domiciliaries of the parties involved. (12) Id. at 191 N.E.2d 279,281.

For instance, in (13) Himes v. Stalker, 416 N.Y.S.2d 986 (App. 2) (1979), the court found

"New York law {must be applied} to an accident in New York between two Pennsylvania residents who were driving to their homes in Pennsylvania." Although the court made the decision in the midst of what was then an unclear definition of New York choice-of-law rules, the court made the focal point of its decision the state in which the accident occurred. Id.

More recently, in (14) Brown v. Harper, 647 N.Y.S.2d 245 (6th Dist. Ct. App. Div. 1996),

the court applied New York law to impose liability on a Pennsylvania dealership that sold a car to an individual who struck a pedestrian in New York. The court stated,

(15) New York law is based on a strong State policy which seeks to ensure that innocent third parties who are injured by an uninsured motorist may recover from a responsible party for the injury and financial loss inflicted upon them. (16) Id. at 247.

It should also be noted that the court imposed liability on the dealership, in large part, because the dealership failed to verify that the purchaser had valid insurance. (17 - 20) See, in addition, Lumbermen's Mutual Casualty Co. v. Morse, 577 N.Y.S.2d 566, 569 (App. 1991), Glunt v. ABC Paving Co., 668 N.W.2d 846, 849 (Tex App. Ct. 1998) (applying New York law), Blais v. Deyo, 475 N.E.2d 76, 78 (Ohio App. 1983) (applying New York law), and Jean v. Francois, 642 N.Y.S.2d 780, 785 (N.Y. Ct. App. 1996) (in which the court determined that Quebec law applied to accidents occurring in New York).


Conclusion
Although New York labels its "choice-of-law" rule as a "significant relationship test," it is very nearly an application of lex loci delicti. (21) See i.e., Dym v. Gordon, 16 N.Y.2d 120, 209 N.E.2d 792, 798 (N.Y. 1965). Officially, the site of the accident is the "tiebreaker" when all other contacts seem to negate each other. (22) Babcock v. Jackson, 191 N.E.2d 279, 280-283 (N.Y. 1963). Given that the accident in the current case occurred in New York, it is likely that New York law will be applied. This is especially true since the second driver involved was a New York resident. These features appear to give New York the most significant relationship to the event as defined by their courts.

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