Thrifty contended that South African tort law controlled the issue of liability apportionment. The Millers argued for the law of Oklahoma, where Thrifty had its principal place of business, or, in the alternative, the law of Ohio, the domicile of the Millers at the time of the accident. Neither party suggested that Florida law controlled.
After an analysis of apportionment of liability under the laws of South Africa, Oklahoma, Florida and Ohio, the District Court first determined that a conflict of law actually existed. The Court held that because Thrifty resided in Oklahoma, Florida lacked an interest in applying the Fabre rule and Florida’s interest would not be frustrated by the application of another jurisdiction’s law. The Court then held that, for the same reasons, Ohio lacked in interest in having its rule applied. South Africa’s recognition of joint and several liability implicated a modest interest in deterring tortious conduct within its borders. Other Florida district courts had previously held that the law of the accident site governed. Because Oklahoma allowed a tortfeasor who was less than 51% at fault to escape joint and several liability, the Court held that there was a true conflict between the law of South Africa and the law of Oklahoma.
The Court then applied the Florida conflict-of-laws “most significant relationship” test outlined in the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws. Applying the general tort principles in section 145 and general choice-of-law principles of section 6, the Court held that Oklahoma had the most significant interest, thus Thrifty could maintain a Fabre-style defense to the extent it was available under Oklahoma law. The Court based its decision on the fact that, while South Africa and Oklahoma had competing interests, because there were no foreseen international ramifications and the harshness of South African law was not a concern, Oklahoma law was easiest to determine and apply. The Court rejected Thrifty’s request that the Court apply South African law to every issue and held that the determination of particular issues would require a different balancing of interests under the Restatement so that an issue-by-issue analysis would need to be conducted.
The Court also struck Thrifty’s amended answer because it was not filed with leave of Court or consent from the Millers and Thrifty had failed to show excusable neglect for an extension of the passed deadline, as required by F.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(B).
Judge(s): Patricia C. Fawsett, District Judge
Related Categories: Civil Procedure , International , Torts , Transportation
|Plaintiff Lawyer(s)||Plaintiff Law Firm(s)|
|Douglas Desjardins||Clapp Desjardins & Ely PLLC|
|Michael B. Ely||Clapp Desjardins & Ely PLLC|
|F. Bradley Hassell||Hassell-Legal PA|
|Ashleigh J. Smith||Hassell-Legal PA|
|Alfred Washington, Jr.||Hassell-Legal PA|
|Defendant Lawyer(s)||Defendant Law Firm(s)|
|Emmett Hodges||Cameron Hodges Coleman Lapointe & Wright PA|