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Law School Case Brief

Duncan v. Cessna Aircraft Co. - 665 S.W.2d 414


The lex loci rules will no longer be used in Texas to resolve conflicts problems. Instead, in all choice of law cases, except those contract cases in which the parties have agreed to a valid choice of law clause, the law of the state with the most significant relationship to the particular substantive issue will be applied to resolve that issue.


Carolyn Parker Duncan, individually and on behalf of her minor children, brought a wrongful death action against Cessna Aircraft Company (Cessna) for damages suffered when an airplane crash killed her husband, James Parker. The jury returned a verdict of $1,000,000 for Duncan, but the trial court rendered judgment non obstante veredicto for Cessna. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the cause for a partial new trial. 


Did the lower courts err in its decision?




The judgments of the trial court and court of appeals were reversed, and judgment was rendered on the jury verdict for petitioner, subject to a credit for damages already received in settlement. The Supreme Court of Texas held that because Texas had the most significant relationship to the issue, the court applied Texas law to construe a release executed between petitioner and the owner of the airplane. Under Texas law, the release did not discharge respondent's liability because respondent was not specifically identified in the release. In a ruling that established a new comparative causation rule of law, to apply only prospectively, the court held that in products liability cases, defendants could obtain a jury allocation of plaintiff's damages according to plaintiff's, defendants', and third parties' respective percentages of causation of those damages.

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