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BRESKMAN v. BCB

September 28, 1988

DR. ELLIS L. BRESKMAN and PHOEBE J. BRESKMAN, h/w, Plaintiffs
v.
BCB, INC., B. CLINT BEDSAUL and CLINT FLOYD BEDSAUL, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NEWCOMER

 CLARENCE C. NEWCOMER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

 This case arises out of an automobile/tractor-trailer accident which occurred in Maryland. The plaintiffs are Pennsylvania citizens and the defendants are North Carolina citizens and their wholly owned North Carolina corporation. Before me now is the choice of which state's tort law to apply: Pennsylvania, Maryland, or North Carolina.

 Factual background.

 Plaintiff, Ellis Breskman, is a resident of Pennsylvania who is an officer and employee of a corporation located in Pennsylvania. On the night of May 1, 1986, Mr. Breskman was en route from Greencastle, Pennsylvania to his home in Malvern, Pennsylvania. Mr. Breskman's choice of route took him through Maryland. While in Maryland Mr. Breskman stopped at an Interstate 95 rest stop to sleep in his car.

 Plaintiff alleges that while he was parked a tractor-trailer belonging to the defendants backed into his car. Defendants respond that plaintiff was negligently parked in a "for trucks only" area; and they claim that the driver of the truck could not have reasonably anticipated any automobile being parked in the location of the impact.

 Plaintiffs argue that Pennsylvania tort law should apply to this litigation, while defendants assert that this Court should apply Maryland law. There is little mystery as to the interests of the parties in their respective arguments. The State of Maryland applies the doctrine of contributory negligence which precludes a plaintiff from recovery in court if he, in any manner or degree, contributed to his own injury. See Harrison v. Montgomery Board of Education, 295 Md. 442, 456 A.2d 894 (1983). Pennsylvania, on the other hand, applies the doctrine of comparative negligence. The Pennsylvania Legislature passed the Comparative Negligence Act in 1976, which provides:

 
All actions brought to recover damages for negligence resulting in . . . injury to person or property, the fact that the plaintiff may have been guilty of contributory negligence shall not bar a recovery by the plaintiff . . . where such negligence was not greater than the causal negligence of the defendant . . .

 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 7102.

 The choice of law problem before the Court will have a significant impact on this case. If plaintiff Ellis Breskman, is found to be negligent in his choice of parking location at the time of the accident, then Maryland law would preclude any recovery. On the other hand, if I apply the Pennsylvania comparative negligence statute, then any such negligence by plaintiff would merely discount recovery unless the jury determined such negligence to constitute the lion's share of the cause of the injuries.

 Discussion.

 The choice of law rules of the forum state govern a United States District Court's choice of law determination. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Manufacturing Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496, 85 L. Ed. 1477, 61 S. Ct. 1020 (1941); Shields v. Consolidated Rail Corporation, 810 F.2d 397, 399 (3d Cir. 1987). Therefore, Pennsylvania's choice of law principles will determine which state's substantive law will apply to this accident case.

 Under the traditional approach to the choice of law decision this case would be quite simple. The doctrine of lex loci delictus dictated that the law of the place where the wrong was committed should be the law of the case. However, in 1964 the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania set the current standard to be employed in choice of law determinations for tort cases. See Griffith v. United Airlines, Inc., 416 Pa. 1, 203 A.2d 796 (1964). As the Third Circuit has correctly observed, Pennsylvania currently employs a flexible methodology to choice of law problems which combines the "most significant relationship" test espoused by the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws and the "interest-analysis" approach attributed to Professor Brainerd Currie. See Melville v. American Home Assurance Co., 584 F.2d 1306, 1311-13 (3d Cir. 1978). Thus, "the place having the most interest in the problem and which is most intimately concerned with the outcome is the forum whose law should apply." Phillips v. General Motors Corporation, 1988 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2541, Slip op. at 10 (E.D. Pa. March 28, 1988) citing In re Complaint of Bankers Trust Co., 752 F.2d 874, 882 (3d Cir. 1984). I shall follow the dictates of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and procede through both analyses.

 1. The Restatement (Second) analysis.

 The Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws establishes the following principles to be applied in choice of law determinations in tort actions:

 
§ 145. General Principle.
 
(2) Contacts to be taken into account in applying the principles of § 6 to determine the law ...

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