Legal Memorandum: Application of MN Law in a Wrongful Death Action

Issue: Would a Minnesota court apply Minnesota law in a wrongful death action in which decedent lived and the company responsible operated part-time in Minnesota, as opposed to law in the state where the decedent died?

Area of Law: Business Organizations & Contracts, Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Wrongful death action; Law of the forum; Place of injury
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 237 N.E.2d 877; 401 F. Supp. 540; 522 P.2d 666; 9 N.Y.2d 34; 211 N.Y.S.2d 133; 22 N.Y.2d 12; 142 N.W.2d 66; 273 Minn. 419; 328 N.W.2d 150; 290 N.Y.S.2d 734; 203 N.W.2d 408
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2001

Notwithstanding the evolution away from applying the lex loci delicti rule to matters involving choice of substantive law, it has long been the rule in Minnesota that matters of procedure and remedy are to be determined by reference to the law of the forum.  Davis v. Furlong, 328 N.W.2d 150, 153 (Minn. 1983) (holding that joinder of parties is governed by law of the forum); Bond v. Pennsylvania R. Co., 144 N.W. 942, 943 (Minn. 1914) (service of process in wrongful death action is governed by Minnesota law; applying now-defunct lex loci delicti rule to matters of substantive liability for wrongful death); Montpetit v. Allina Health Sys., Inc., No. C2-00-571 (Minn. Ct. App., Oct. 10, 2000) (unpublished opinion) (applying law of Minnesota, where the surviving family members in wrongful death suit were domiciled, to matters of wrongful death distribution).  While the substantive/procedural/remedial distinction may be one of first impression in Minnesota with regard to non-forum damage limitations in wrongful death actions, a Minnesota court is likely to characterize any limitation on damages recoverable for wrongful death as a matter of remedy, and the court will accordingly apply the law of the forum.  See, e.g., Kilberg v. Northeast Airlines, Inc., 9 N.Y.2d 34, 42, 172 N.E.2d 526, 529, 211 N.Y.S.2d 133, 138 (1961) (applying New York forum rules on damages to action brought under Massachusetts wrongful death statute), compare Miller v. Miller, 22 N.Y.2d 12, 237 N.E.2d […]

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