Legal Memorandum: Conflicts of Law Analysis

Issue: Under federal law as applied in New Jersey, when determining which state’s law should apply in a diversity case, what effect should a court give to the state of the plaintiff’s residence?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Conflicts-of-law; Plaintiff's residence; Place of injury
Jurisdiction: Federal, New Jersey
Cited Cases: 679 A.2d 106; 628 A.2d 386; 901 F. Supp. 900
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 01/01/2000

Although the plaintiff’s residence is often an important factor in a personal injury lawsuit, because the residence state has an interest in ensuring that its citizens are compensated for their injuries, that factor is usually outweighed by the place of injury.  The place of injury takes on paramount importance in a governmental interest analysis when the plaintiff has voluntarily chosen to leave his or her place of residence to travel to the place where the injury ultimately occurred.  A party’s residence is an important factor to consider in a governmental interest conflicts-of-law analysis, but the importance of this factor is limited if the party has voluntarily left his or her residence for another state.  Capone v. Nadig, 963 F. Supp. 409, 413 (D.N.J. 1997).

In O’Connor v. Busch Gardens, 605 A.2d 773 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1992), a New Jersey court considered whether New Jersey law or Virginia law should apply to the plaintiff’s products liability action.  The New Jersey plaintiff had traveled to Virginia to an amusement park, where she was injured allegedly by the amusement park’s negligence.  The New Jersey court, applying the governmental interest analysis, determined that Virginia law should apply to determine the contributory negligence issue, because "Virginia, as the place of alleged negligence on the part of one or both of the parties, has the most significant relationship to the parties and the occurrence with respect to [that] conflict."  Id. at 776.  New Jersey, reasoned the court, had a legitimate interest […]

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