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ARCILA v. CHRISTOPHER TRUCKING

April 18, 2002

DORIS B. ARCILA, AS ADMINISTRATRIX AD PROSEQUENDUM FOR THE HEIRS-AT-LAW OF PEDRONEL ARCILA, DECEASED, AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF PEDRONEL ARCILA, DECEASED, AND INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS, V. CHRISTOPHER TRUCKING, ITS AGENTS, SERVANTS AND/OR EMPLOYEES; CHRISTOPHER R. BURNS, D/B/A CHRISTOPHER TRUCKING, ITS AGENTS, SERVANTS AND/OR EMPLOYEES, AND CHRISTOPHER R. BURNS, INDIVIDUALLY; MICHAEL JOHN TODD; AND JOHN DOES 1-5, FICTITIOUS NAMES FOR INDIVIDUALS AND/OR ENTITIES WHO ARE AS YET UNKNOWN, DEFENDANTS.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jan E. DuBOIS, J.

ORDER AND MEMORANDUM

ORDER

AND NOW, this 18th day of April, 2002, upon consideration of Motion of Defendants, Christopher Trucking and Michael John Todd, for a Determination of Choice of Law Issues (Document No. 9, filed February 12, 2002); plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Response to Defendants' Motion for Determination as to Choice of Law (Document No. 16, filed March 15, 2002); and defendants' supplemental filings, for the reasons set forth in the following Memorandum, IT IS ORDERED that said Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, as follows:

1. To the extent defendants move the Court for a determination as to what law should apply to the damages issues in this case, defendants' Motion is GRANTED;
2. To the extent defendants move the Court for a ruling that New Jersey law shall be applied to the damages issues in this case, defendants' Motion is DENIED;
3. Pennsylvania law shall be applied to the damages issues in this case.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Pennsylvania law shall be applied to the liability issues in this case by agreement of the parties.

MEMORANDUM

• BACKGROUND

The relevant facts for purposes of the pending Motion are undisputed. This case arises out of a June 1, 1999, fatal accident on Interstate 78 in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. On that date, decedent, Pedronel Arcila, who was employed as a truck driver, was hauling a load from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. Shortly after crossing into Pennsylvania from New Jersey, decedent was directed "out of service" by Pennsylvania State Police troopers; he then parked his tractor-trailer on the side of the Interstate. Thereafter, a tractor-trailer driven by defendant, Michael John Todd, who was employed by defendant, Christopher Trucking, struck and killed decedent.

Plaintiff, Doris B. Arcila, on behalf of decedent's estate, decedent's heirs, and individually, filed the present action in this Court. Plaintiffs are citizens of New Jersey and defendants are citizens of Pennsylvania. Because the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000, the Court exercises diversity jurisdiction over plaintiffs' state-law causes of action under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

Plaintiffs' Complaint asserts claims under both survival and wrongful death statutes, but does not specify whether the action is based on Pennsylvania or New Jersey law. The parties agree that New Jersey's and Pennsylvania's statutes governing both wrongful death and survival suits adopt the same standards for determining liability. The statutes differ significantly, however, in what damages they allow injured plaintiffs to recover. In the pending Motion, defendants move the Court for a ruling as to which state's law will govern the damages issues in this case.

• DISCUSSION

Because this is a diversity case, the Court applies the choice of law principles of the forum state, Pennsylvania. On Air Entertainment Corp. v. Nat'l Indem. Co., 210 F.3d 146, 149 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496-97 (1941)). Pennsylvania's choice-of-law analysis requires the Court to conduct a two-part inquiry: "First, the court must look to see whether a false conflict exists. Then, if there is no false conflict, the court determines which state has the greater interest in the application of its law." LeJeune v. Bliss-Salem, Inc., 85 F.3d 1069, 1071 (3d Cir. 1996) (citing Cipolla v. Shaposka, 267 A.2d 854 (Pa. 1970)). "A false conflict exists where `only one jurisdiction's governmental interests would be impaired by the application of the other jurisdiction's law.'" Id. (quoting Lacey ...


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