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Grant v. McAuliffe - 41 Cal. 2d 859, 264 P.2d 944 (1953)


Survival of causes of action are governed by the law of the forum. Survival is not an essential part of the cause of action itself but relates to the procedures available for the enforcement of the legal claim for damages. Basically the question is one of the administration of decedents' estates, which is a purely local proceeding


Plaintiffs W. R. Grant, R. M. Manchester, and D. O. Jensen, passengers and driver, were injured in an Arizona automobile accident in Arizona with the automobile driven by deceased-tortfeasor W. W. Pullen. All parties were domiciled in California. Plaintiffs brought an action for damages against the administrator of Pullen's Estate for injuries sustained as a result of Pullen's negligence. In California, causes of action for negligent torts survive the death of the tortfeasor and can be maintained against the administrator or executor of his estate. The Administrator McAuliffe, administrator of Pullen’s estate, filed a demurrer and moved for abatement of the claims. McAuliffe argued that the survival of a cause of action is a matter of substantive law, and that the courts of California must apply the law of Arizona governing survival of causes of action. There was no provision that in the event of the death of a party to a pending proceeding his personal representative can be substituted as a party to the action. The trial court granted the motions, and the plaintiffs appealed. 


Did the causes of action survived Pullen’s negligence and were maintainable against Pullen's estate?




The Court held that California, the forum state, shall govern. The responsibilities of defendant McAuliffe, as administrator of Pullen's estate, for injuries inflicted by Pullen before his death were governed by the laws of California state. When all of the parties were residents of California, and the estate of the deceased tortfeasor is being administered in California, plaintiffs' right to prosecute their causes of action is governed by the laws of this state relating to administration of estates. The Court reversed the decision granting McAuliffe’s motion, and the causes were remanded

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