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Under the principle of lex loci delicti, an Alabama court determines the substantive rights of an injured party according to the law of the state where the injury occurs.
The administrator's daughter and her children were killed in a plane crash in Florida. Two separate wrongful death/product liability actions were filed against Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, as the designer and manufacturer of the plane, and Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company ("3M") as the designer and manufacturer of a flight instrument called a "Stormscope." Gulfstream and 3M maintain that their products were not defectively designed and were not causally related to the crash. On the eve of the trial, the administrator filed a motion requesting that the trial court make a pretrial determination that Alabama's substantive law (rather than Florida's) applied to the case, or, in the alternative, to certify the choice-of-law issue for an appeal to this Court pursuant to Rule 5, A. R. App. P. The trial court determined that the substantive law of Florida, rather than that of Alabama, applied to the action, but the question was certified for appeal. The administrator contended that the rule of lex loci delicti, which had been applied in Alabama for almost 100 years and which required that the substantive rights of an injured party be determined according to the law of the state where the injury occurred, was outmoded and unfair. The administrator urged adoption of the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws (1971) approach.
Should Alabama retain the traditional conflict of laws principle of lex loci delicti in tort cases?
The court conducted an extensive review of the choice of law principles applied by other states, concluding that the newer approaches were neither less confusing nor more certain than the traditional approach, holding that it would not abandon the lex loci delicti rule. There also was no special public policy exception because the administrator knew the law of Alabama when he chose to file the action in Alabama. The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.