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Law School Case Brief

Hataway v. McKinley - 830 S.W.2d 53 (Tenn. 1992)


The "most significant relationship" approach to conflicts of law provides that the rights and liabilities of the parties with respect to an issue in tort are determined by the local law of the state, which with respect to that issue, has the most significant relationship to the occurrence and the parties. 


Parents of a deceased Tennessee university student filed a wrongful death action against the university's diving instructor alleging negligence resulting in the death of their son while scuba diving in an Arkansas rock quarry. The trial court held that pursuant to the doctrine of lex loci delicti, the action was governed by Arkansas law, although both the deceased and university diving instructor were Tennessee residents and the diving trip was part of a diving class taught at the Tennessee university. The parents sought review. 


Should action be governed by Arkansas law?




The court reversed and remanded, holding that the lex loci delicti principle of conflicts resolution was outmoded and that the better reasoned approach was that enunciated in the Restatement (Second) of Conflicts of Law, under which a court applied the law of the state where the injury occurred unless some other state had a more significant relationship to the occurrence and the parties. Applying the new principle, the court found that Tennessee had the most significant relationship with the parties, with their relationship to each other, with the event that occasioned the death, and held that Tennessee should govern the action.

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