The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINER
Presently before the court is a motion by the plaintiffs to consolidate all related cases and to determine applicable law in this air disaster case. This action arises out of a helicopter crash near Mannheim, West Germany on September 11, 1982. The helicopter, a United States Army CH-47 "Chinook", was designed, manufactured and assembled by the Boeing Vertol, a division of defendant Boeing, in Pennsylvania. As a result of the accident, all 46 crew and passengers on board were killed. Numerous actions have been brought against Boeing by foreign and American personal representatives and next-of-kin.
The asserted theories of liability include breach of warranty, negligence and strict liability, all bearing on the airworthiness of the helicopter. It is plaintiffs' argument that the cases should be consolidated because the liability issues are identical in each action. The plaintiffs further seek to have this court determine that Pennsylvania law should be applied to all plaintiffs for both the liability and damages issues.
Boeing does not contest consolidation of those cases brought by the surviving relatives of active duty United States Servicemen who were killed in the crash. Nor does it contest the application of Pennsylvania liability law to those same cases "in the absence of a showing that some other jurisdiction has a greater interest in the application of its law to a specific issue." ("Boeing's Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Consolidate All Related Cases and to Determine Applicable Law," p. 2).
Defendant strongly objects, however, to the application of Pennsylvania law to the "foreign cases" and urges the court to apply the law of West Germany. This court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss the "foreign cases" on the ground of forum non conveniens in a Memorandum Opinion and Order dated July 14, 1983.
Federal subject matter jurisdiction arises from the parties' diversity of citizenship. Therefore, this court is required to follow the choice of law rules of the states where the various actions were originally filed. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Manufacturing Co., 313 U.S. 487, 61 S. Ct. 1020, 85 L. Ed. 1477 (1941). Other than the two transferred cases,
all cases were filed in Pennsylvania. Although the parties state that Pennsylvania has generally adopted the Restatement (Second) Conflicts of Laws (1971),
analysis of the Pennsylvania choice-of-law cases reveals that the Commonwealth actually uses a hybrid conflict of laws approach, requiring that a court look to which state, of the potentially interested states,
"has the greater interest in the application of its law . . . ." Cipolla v. Shaposka, 439 Pa. 563, 566, 267 A.2d 854 (1970). This approach requires "an analysis of the policies behind the competing laws. . . ." Id. at 565, 267 A.2d 854.
In analyzing the methodology used by Pennsylvania choice-of-law cases pertaining to tort actions, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has determined that Pennsylvania has "adopted a flexible methodology entailing analysis of the policies and contacts of the various concerned jurisdictions." Melville v. American Home Assurance Co., 584 F.2d 1306, 1311 (3d Cir. 1978). The circuit court recognized that:
This methodology combines the approaches of both Restatement II (contacts establishing significant relationships) and 'interest analysis' (qualitative appraisal of the relevant States' policies with respect to the controversy). It takes into account both the grouping of contacts with the various concerned jurisdictions and the interests and policies that may be validly asserted by each jurisdiction. Fairly read, Griffith, in drawing upon Restatement II's analysis and 'interest analysis' may be said to have combined both in the Griffith 'flexible rule.' It is that rule which the Griffith court claims 'permits analysis of the policies and interests underlying the particular issue before the court.' 203 A.2d at 805. See Kuchinic v. McCrory, 422 Pa. 620, 222 A.2d 897 (1966). Under Pennsylvania law, it is firmly established that this approach is applicable in tort actions. Id.
The principles established in the Restatement (Second) pertaining to this case are:
§ 145. The General Principle
(1) The rights and liabilities of the parties with respect to an issue in tort are determined by the local law of the state which, with respect to that issue, has the most significant relationship to the occurrence and the parties under the principles stated in § 6.
(2) Contacts to be taken into account in applying the principles of § 6 to determine the law applicable to an issue include:
(a) the place where the injury occurred,
(b) the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred,
(d) the place where the relationship, if any, between the parties is centered. These contacts are to be evaluated according to their relative importance with respect to the particular issue.
§ 6. Choice-of-Law Principles
(1) A court, subject to constitutional restrictions, will follow a statutory directive of its own state on choice of law.
(2) When there is no such directive, the factors relevant to the choice of the ...