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Legal Memorandum: IL Resident's Injury in FL

Issue: What law applies to a case involving an Illinois resident hurt in a boating accident in Florida involving an Illinois-registered boat?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Conflict of laws; Boating accident and injury; Regsitration of boat
Jurisdiction: Florida, Illinois
Cited Cases: 655 N.E.2d 1093; 853 So. 2d 434; 682 N.E.2d 238; 475 N.E.2d 984; 738 N.E.2d 964
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 145;
Date: 03/01/2004

Illinois courts apply a “most significant relationship” test to determine the applicable law in tort actions.  Pursuant to that test, the local law of the state where the injury occurred is presumed to govern the parties’ rights and liabilities, unless another state has a more significant relationship to the occurrence or to the parties involved.  Pittway Corp. v. Lockheed Aircraft Corp., 641 F.2d 524 (7th Cir. 1981); see also Ferguson v. Kasbohm, 131 Ill. App. 3d 424, 475 N.E.2d 984 (1st Dist. 1985).*FN1

Whether Illinois has a more significant relationship to either the parties or the injury depends on the facts of the case.  In Ferguson, in which the plaintiff was injured when a rope attached to a boat broke while the plaintiff was visiting relatives in Michigan, the Illinois court held that Michigan law applied.  The court reasoned:

Under the facts at bar, we find no reason to supplant the presumptive importance given to the place of injury, here Michigan, in deciding the choice of law to be applied. There is nothing in the record to suggest that Illinois has a more significant relationship to the occurrence than does Michigan. The injury occurred in Michigan, the boat is located in Michigan, and defendants’ property is in Michigan. In addition, the defendants are Michigan domiciliaries. While plaintiff is domiciled in Illinois, this single factor is not sufficient to overcome the presumption that the local law of […]

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