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GROSS v. MCDONALD

February 15, 1973

Marie L. GROSS and Joseph J. Gross
v.
Frank John McDONALD


Edward R. Becker, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BECKER

EDWARD R. BECKER, District Judge.

 This case calls upon us to decide interesting choice of law questions involving statutes of limitations and an automobile guest statute. Plaintiff Marie L. Gross ("plaintiff") was injured while riding as a passenger in defendant's automobile in Indiana, which has a guest statute. The journey during which the accident occurred began and was intended to end in Kentucky, where both plaintiff and defendant temporarily resided. Plaintiffs have brought this action claiming damages for her personal injuries. *fn1" Defendant has pleaded and argued that plaintiffs' action is barred by the Indiana guest statute, the one-year Kentucky statute of limitations, *fn2" or the Pennsylvania borrowing statute. *fn3" Plaintiffs have moved that we strike these defenses, asserting that none of these rules is the appropriate choice of law in this case. For the reasons hereinafter stated, the plaintiffs' motion to strike the defenses will be granted.

 Because plaintiffs' motion to strike required a factual content, the parties entered into a stipulation of facts, supplemented by depositions, the relevant portions of which may be summarized as follows. As we have noted, plaintiff was injured while riding as a passenger in defendant's car in Indiana. At the time of the accident, both plaintiff and defendant were temporarily residing in Kentucky. Plaintiff, a New Jersey resident, was enrolled at Owensboro College in Owensboro, Kentucky, while defendant, an Irish national, was employed there. *fn4" Defendant's automobile was registered in Kentucky and he held an Irish international driving permit. Around 11:00 p.m. on April 18, 1969, plaintiff and defendant left on a motor trip from Owensboro headed toward a boat club in Indiana. Shortly after midnight, approximately four or five miles inside Indiana, the accident which caused the plaintiff's injuries occurred.

 The Indiana guest statute provides:

 
The owner, operator, or person responsible for the operation of a motor vehicle shall not be liable for loss or damage arising from injuries to or death of a guest, while being transported without payment thereof, in or upon such motor vehicle, resulting from the operation thereof, unless such injuries or death are caused by the wanton or wilful misconduct of such operator, owner, or person responsible for the operation of such motor vehicle. *fn5"

 Choice of law in the guest statute context was the issue in Kuchinic v. McCrory, 422 Pa. 620, 222 A.2d 897 (1966), where three passengers and the pilot of a private plane, all Pennsylvania residents, were killed in a crash in Georgia. The plane was returning to Pennsylvania from Florida, where the four occupants of the plane, all personal friends, had gone to attend a football game. Suit was instituted on behalf of the deceased passengers in state court in Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that under Griffith Pennsylvania law, rather than Georgia law (including a guest statute), applied. *fn6"

 In assessing the relationships of the two states to the litigation, the Court noted:

 
Indeed when properly analyzed the present cases are a prime example of what has been characterized as a "false conflict", for under no stretch of the imagination can Georgia be viewed as a concerned jurisdiction. In passing its statute, Georgia undoubtedly intended either to protect insurance companies from collusive suits or to prevent ungrateful guests from suing their hosts; it most assuredly did not mean to encourage the exercise of less than due care by those who use its highways or airways. Georgia's only contact with the present case, as the situs of the accident, is wholly fortuitous, whereas Pennsylvania, as the place where the host-guest relationship was established, where it was intended to terminate, and as the domicile of all four of the aircraft's occupants, is the state with the most significant interest in defining the legal consequences attaching to the relationship here involved. See Griffith v. United Airlines, supra.

 222 A.2d at 899-900 (footnotes omitted).

 In addition to Griffith, Cipolla, and Kuchinic, we are aided in our analysis of the conflicts question before us by two recent opinions from New York: Chila v. Owens, 348 F. Supp. 1207 (S.D.N.Y.1972), and Neumeier v. Kuehner, 31 N.Y.2d 121, 335 N.Y.S.2d 64, 286 N.E.2d 454 (1972). Neumeier represents a major effort to achieve consistency in the choice of law process in guest-host conflict cases. The principles therein enunciated are as follows:

 
1. When the guest-passenger and the host-driver are domiciled in the same state, and the car is there registered, the law of that state should control and determine the standard of care which the host owes to his guest.
 
2. When the driver's conduct occurred in the state of his domicile and that state does not cast him in liability for that conduct, he should not be held liable by reason of the fact that liability would be imposed upon him under the tort law of the state of the victim's domicile. Conversely, when the guest was injured in the state of his own domicile and its law permits recovery, the driver who has come into that state should ...

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