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Massachusetts will enforce the lex loci delicti in wrongful death suits unless Massachusetts public policy forbids it.
Northeast Airlines, Inc. is a common carrier of passengers by air. Edward J. Kilberg, a passenger on one of Northeast Airlines’ planes, was killed in August, 1958 when the airship crashed and burned at Nantucket, Massachusetts, in the course of a flight from a New York airport. The complaint pleads three causes of action but this appeal has to do, immediately, with the second count only. That part of the complaint has been dismissed for insufficiency by the Appellate Division which reversed Special Term's denial of Northeast Airlines’ motion to dismiss. Jack Kilberg, as Administrator of the Estate of Edward J. Kilberg, appealed from the dismissal. The disputed second cause of action alleged that Edward before boarding the plane at La Guardia Airport bought from Northeast Airlines a ticket for transportation to Nantucket, that Northeast Airlines by causing his death in the crash breached its contract to carry him safely and that as a result the passenger's estate and his dependent suffered substantial damages (stated as $150,000) for which his administrator sues and which include "loss of accumulations of prospective earnings of the deceased."
May the Court refuse to apply part of Massachusetts law which sets a limit on the ceiling as to damages and is contrary to New York public policy?
The Court affirmed the intermediate Appellate Court's judgment with regard to the contract cause of action, but held that the limitation on damages for wrongful death was so contrary to New York public policy that the Court should refuse to apply that part of Massachusetts law. The Court noted further that Massachusetts would enforce the lex loci delicti in wrongful death suits unless Massachusetts public policy forbade it. Therefore, the survivor was allowed to apply for leave to amend his first cause of action accordingly.