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Griffith v. United Air Lines, Inc.

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

April 28, 1964, Argued ; October 14, 1964, Decided

No. 189, January Term, 1964


 [*4]   [**797]  George H. Hambrecht, a Pennsylvania domiciliary, purchased a ticket from United Airlines, Inc. [United] in Philadelphia [***2]  for a flight from Philadelphia to Phoenix, Arizona, and return. On July 11, 1961, he boarded a United DC-8 bound for Phoenix. In the course of landing at Denver, Colorado, a scheduled stop, the plane crashed, causing Mr. Hambrecht's immediate death.

United is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Chicago. It regularly does business and maintains operational facilities in Pennsylvania.

Decedent's will was probated in Pennsylvania. In July, 1962, the executor of the Hambrecht estate commenced  [*5]  an action in assumpsit against United and certain of its employees in the Court of Common Pleas No. 6 of Philadelphia County. 1 The complaint alleged, in substance, that United had contracted to transport safely plaintiff's decedent from Philadelphia to Phoenix and return; that in breach of this contract, certain of United's named employees, in the course of their employment, had negligently operated, managed, maintained, inspected and controlled the airplane, from which negligence the crash and death resulted; that the action was brought pursuant to the Pennsylvania Survival Act (contained in the Fiduciaries Act) of April 18, 1949, P. L. 512, § 603, 20 [***3]  P.S. § 320.603; that as a result of said breach, decedent and his estate have suffered substantial  [**798]  damages including loss of accumulations of prospective earnings of the deceased.

United and the individual defendants filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer, in which they asserted that the complaint alleged a breach of warranty without alleging a valid basis therefor, that the complaint failed to allege any contractual relationship between the decedent and the individual defendants, and that although the complaint alleged crash and death in Colorado, the action was brought under the Pennsylvania survival statute.

The court of common pleas sustained the cause of action as having been brought under a valid contract of carriage but dismissed as to the individual defendants. However, the court held that the law of the place of the injury, Colorado, not the law of the forum,  [***4]  Pennsylvania, controlled on the matter of damages, and granted leave to amend. No amendment having  [*6]  been filed, the complaint was dismissed. Plaintiff appealed from the dismissal as to United. 2

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416 Pa. 1 *; 203 A.2d 796 **; 1964 Pa. LEXIS 371 ***

Griffith, Appellant, v. United Air Lines, Inc.

Prior History:  [***1]  Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas No. 6 of Philadelphia County, June T., 1962, No. 2013, in case of Robert E. Griffith, executor of estate of George H. Hambrecht, deceased, v. United Air Lines, Inc., Peter Serzan, George Haworth et al.

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.


conflict of laws, passenger, Comments, assumpsit, damages, parties, cases, lex loci, delicti, courts, plane, place of injury, stare decisis, carrier, choice of law, circumstances, airplane, carriage, crash, significant relationship, trespass, law of the place, cause of action, personal injury, Airlines, survival, Conflicts, contacts, policies, Solving

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Adverse Determinations, Torts, Transportation Torts, Air Transportation, Negligence, Proof, General Overview, Standards of Care, Special Care, Common Carriers, Elements, Duty, Motor Vehicles, Particular Actors, Circumstances, & Liabilities, Motor Carriers, Business & Corporate Compliance, Breach, Breach of Contract Actions, Assumpsit, Contracts Law, Sales of Goods, Breach, Excuse & Repudiation, Transportation Law, Carrier Duties & Liabilities, Damages, Governments, State & Territorial Governments, Elections, Federal & State Interrelationships, Choice of Law, Significant Relationships, Public Entity Liability, Liability, Local Governments, Claims By & Against, Procedural Matters, Conflict of Law, Forum & Place