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Gutierrez v. Collins

the Supreme Court of Texas

Jun. 13, 1979

No. B-7943


 [*313]   Sam D. Johnson, Justice

This appeal brings into question the continued validity of two conflict of laws rues which heretofore have been considered well-established in this state: the rule of lex loci delicti and the dissimilarity doctrine. The trial court dismissed petitioner's case for want of jurisdiction. The court of civil appeals affirmed. 570 S.W.2d 101. Having carefully considered the matter, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and the court of civil appeals. This cause is remanded to the trial court so that it may proceed to a trial on the merits.

The facts of this case are not difficult. Gutierrez, plaintiff below and petitioner here, brought suit against Collins, defendant below and respondent here, for damages for personal injuries suffered in an automobile accident that occurred in Zaragosa, State of Chihuahua, Mexico. Plaintiff Gutierrez alleged that the collision was caused by the negligence of defendant Collins. Gutierrez and Collins [**2]  are both residents of El Paso, Texas. The petition prayed for damages for medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, lost wages, and pain and suffering, or, in the alternative, for moral reparations as allowed under Mexican law, which was specifically pleaded. Collins filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that the dissimilarity doctrine required dismissal of the case. At a hearing on this plea, the trial court received evidence concerning the laws of Mexico. The court then sustained defendant Collins' plea to the jurisdiction and dismissed Gutierrez's suit. The court of civil appeals affirmed.

The long-standing rule in tort cases in this state has been that the law of the place where the wrong occurred, i.e., the lex loci delicti, dictated the substantive rights of the parties and was to be applied by a Texas court in the trial of the case. By this rule, if suit were brought in Texas for a tort committed in Mexico, the trial court was to apply the law of Mexico. It was here, however, that the dissimilarity doctrine deprived the plaintiff of a judicial forum. By this doctrine, the Texas court was required to dismiss the cause for want of jurisdiction because [**3]  the tort laws of Mexico were considered to be so different from those of Texas as to make it impossible for a Texas court to apply and enforce them. The time has come to reconsider both of these rules.

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583 S.W.2d 312 *; 1979 Tex. LEXIS 295 **; 22 Tex. Sup. J. 417

Esperanza Gutierrez, Petitioner vs. Edward R. Collins, Respondent

Subsequent History:  [**1]  Rehearing denied July 11, 1979

Prior History: From El Paso County, Eighth District


lex loci, delicti, courts, cases, dissimilarity, conflicts, conflict of laws, trial court, significant relationship, governmental interest, choice of law, principles, decisions, personal injury, negligence law, civil appeal, instant case, parties, argues, common law cause, public policy, common law, no writ, mandatory, damages, Lines

Civil Procedure, Federal & State Interrelationships, Choice of Law, Forum & Place, Torts, Procedural Matters, Commencement & Prosecution, General Overview, Preliminary Considerations, Venue, Individual Defendants, Conflict of Law, Place of Injury, Governments, Courts, Common Law, Preemption