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The general choice of law rule for issues of conventional obligations, including challenges to the validity of a contract, is set out in Louisiana Civil Code article 3537, which provides that courts should apply "the law of the state whose policies would be most seriously impaired if its law were not applied to that issue." La. Civ. Code art. 3537.
David Todd Moore is David Richard Moore's son, and that on December 21, 2010, David and his wife, Janice Moore ("Janice") signed a Warranty Deed ("the Deed") purporting to transfer the disputed property—a farm in Iowa—to Todd for a price of $1.00. Additionally, the parties agree that the Deed was not signed by any witnesses. The plaintiff George E. McGovern, III ("McGovern"), as curator of David, alleged that no witnesses were present when David and Janice signed the deed. Todd claimed that he did not know whether any witnesses were present when David and Janice signed the Deed because he was not present when they signed it. Todd further argued that the lack of witness signatures is irrelevant because the Deed complied with the formal requirements of Iowa law. McGovern also contended that Todd did not pay the stated purchase price of $1.00. Todd does not dispute this fact, but claims the transfer cannot be invalidated on that basis. McGovern filed the instant lawsuit in state court on April 29, 2013. Todd filed a notice of removal and the case was removed to this court on June 12, 2013. McGovern filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, which was ultimately denied. McGovern filed the instant motion for summary judgment on March 13, 2014, seeking judgment as a matter of law on the ground that the Deed is invalid in form and therefore, is an absolute nullity. Todd filed an opposition, McGovern filed a reply, and Todd filed a sur-reply.
Was McGovern entitled to summary judgment?
The court held that article 3537 mandates the application of Iowa law. The object of the contract—the farm—is located in Iowa. When considering contract disputes involving immovables, the location of the property can be an overriding factor. Having concluded that Iowa law governs the instant dispute, McGovern would only be entitled to summary judgment if he established that the Deed was invalid in form under Iowa law as a matter of law. McGovern’s motion and reply brief argued only that the Deed is invalid as a matter of law under Louisiana law. Additionally, Todd contended in opposition that the Deed appears to comply with Iowa's form requirements for a warranty deed. A genuine dispute of material fact exists as to whether the contract is valid in form, and McGovern is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law.