Legal Memorandum: Determination of Conflicts of Law Issues

Issue: What law applies to a wrongful death action in which the accident took place in Florida, but the decedents were residents of Ohio?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Conflicts of law; Wrongful death action
Jurisdiction: Florida, Ohio
Cited Cases: 515 So. 2d 413; 389 So. 2d 999; 177 F.3d 1272; 908 F.2d 1565; 433 So. 2d 613
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 175; Ohio Rev. Code § 2015.21 (2000); Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws §145(2)
Date: 09/01/2000

If decedents resided in the State of Ohio, and an accident took place in the state of Florida, the court would be faced with the decision of which state’s law to apply with respect to the definition of “survivor” for a wrongful death action.  The general rule for wrongful death actions is that the local law of the state where the injury occurred determines the rights and responsibilities of the parties, unless “with respect to the particular issue” some other state has a more significant relationship to the occurrence or parties.  Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 175. 

In Ohio, parties must survive each other by thirty days in order to inherit.  Ohio Rev. Code § 2015.21 (2000). 

In a case where the accident occurred in Maine, but the decedents and estate beneficiaries resided in Florida, the Third Appellate District held that Florida law should apply to the wrongful death action.  Harris v. Berkowitz, 433 So. 2d 613 (Fla. 3d Dist. Ct. App. 1983).  The court noted that the Florida Supreme Court had abandoned the mechanical lex loci delecti (place of wrong) rule and adopted the more flexible significant relationships test in sections 6, 145 and 146 of the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws.  Id. at 613-14 (citing Bishop v. Florida Specialty Paint Co., 389 So. 2d 999 (Fla. 1980)).  The Harris court applied Florida law to determine the measure of damages for Florida residents for […]

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