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In entering into contracts, if nothing appears to the contrary, the law of the place silently becomes a part of the contract and determines the measure of the rights it secures. This right of comity, however, has limitations. No state will enforce contracts or redress grievances entered into or suffered in another state, if the enforcement involve a breach of legal or moral right as maintained in the law of the forum. It is likewise a fundamental principle that the laws of the state can have no binding force proprio vigore outside of the territorial limits and jurisdiction of the state enacting them. Consequently any provision found in the law of another state authorizing the making of a contract which is obnoxious to the laws of Alabama, as to such obnoxious provisions the contract will not be enforced in Alabama; but it will be enforced in Alabama only to the extent that it is lawful in Alabama. While there are respectable authorities holding that, where a contract is entered into in one state to be performed partly in that state and partly in another, the laws of the state in which the contract was made will control as to the measure of damages, but in a case where the contract of necessity, so far as the breach complained of was concerned, must be performed wholly within the state of Alabama, then this rule would not apply.
Plaintiff sendee’s wife, who was in Georgia, sent the sendee, who was in Alabama, a telegram by the telegraph company asking him to return to Georgia immediately as their small child was dying. The sendee was unable to meet his wife before their child died, and he sued the telegraph company for failing to deliver the telegram within a reasonable time, and sought to recover the 40 cents paid for the telegram and damages for mental pain and anguish. The trial court awarded the sendee $ 1,100. The telegraph company appealed, arguing that, under the laws of Georgia, damages were not recoverable for mental anguish in cases of failure to deliver or delay in delivering telegrams, and that the contract, the basis of the action being made in Georgia, the laws of Georgia, govern as to damages recoverable for the delay or failure to deliver the telegram in question.
Did the laws of Georgia govern as to damages recoverable for the delay or failure to deliver the telegram in question?
On appeal, the court affirmed. The laws of Alabama, rather than the laws of Georgia, controlled the measure of damages available to the sendee, as the injury occurred solely in Alabama and the parties to the contract provided for it to be performed partially in Alabama. No breach of the contract occurred in Georgia, as the telegram was promptly sent to the office in Alabama. Because Alabama permitted mental pain and anguish damages for the negligent delivery of a telegram where the message was between persons with a close degree of relationship and related to an exceptional event, such as death, the trial court did not err by awarding the sendee such damages.