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Conflict of Law - Jurisdiction over the Res - Digested Cases

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Conflicts of Law


Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert - 330 U.S. 501, 67 S. Ct. 839 (1947)


If the combination and weight of factors requisite to given results are difficult to forecast or state, those to be considered are not difficult to name. An interest to be considered, and the one likely to be most pressed, is the private interest of the litigant. Important considerations are the relative ease of access to sources of proof; availability of compulsory process for attendance of unwilling, and the cost of obtaining attendance of willing, witnesses; possibility of view of premises, if view would be appropriate to the action; and all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive. There may also be questions as to the enforceability of a judgment if one is obtained. The court will weigh relative advantages and obstacles to fair trial. But unless the balance is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed.


Respondent-plaintiff, Virginia resident, and public warehouse operator brought a tort action in New York alleging that the petitioner-defendant, in violation of the ordinances of Virginia, so carelessly handled a delivery of gasoline to his warehouse tanks and pumps as to cause an explosion and fire which consumed the warehouse building, caused injury to his business, and burned the property of customers in his custody under warehousing agreements. Petitioner-defendant oil company is a Pennsylvania corporation, qualified to do business in both Virginia and New York, and it has designated officials of each state as agents to receive service of process. When sued in New York, the defendant, invoking the doctrine of forum non conveniens, claimed that the appropriate place for trial is Virginia, where the plaintiff lives and defendant does business, where all events in litigation took place, where most of the witnesses reside, and where both state and federal courts are available to plaintiff and are able to obtain jurisdiction of the defendant. The case, on its merits, involves no federal question and was brought in the US District Court solely because of diversity in citizenship of the parties. The District Court considered that the law of New York as to forum non conveniens applied and that it required the case to be left to Virginia courts. It therefore dismissed the action. The Court of Appeals disagreed as to the applicability of New York law, took a restrictive view of the application of the entire doctrine in federal courts and reversed. On certiorari, the court reversed.


Did the district court abuse its discretion in dismissing the suit pursuant to the doctrine of forum non conveniens?

No. The court concluded that the district court had not exceeded its powers or the bounds of its discretion in dismissing plaintiff's complaint and remitting it to the courts of his own community. The appeals court judgment was too restrictive. The task of the trial court would be simplified by trial in Virginia. If trial was in a state court, it could apply its own law to events occurring there. If in federal court by reason of diversity of citizenship, the court would apply the law of its own state in which it is likely to be experienced. The course of adjudication in New York federal court might be beset with conflict of laws problems all avoided if the case is litigated in Virginia where it arose.

World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson - 444 U.S. 286 (1976)

A state court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant only so long as there exist "minimum contacts" between the defendant and the forum State. The concept of minimum contacts, in turn, can be seen to perform two related, but distinguishable, functions. It protects the defendant against the burdens of litigating in a distant or inconvenient forum. And it acts to ensure that the States, through their courts, do not reach out beyond the limits imposed on them by their status as coequal sovereigns in a federal system.


Plaintiffs Kay Eloise Robinson, E.M.R, a minor, and Harry Robinson, who were residents of New York, were injured in an automobile accident that occurred in Oklahoma. Thereafter, they filed a products liability action in Oklahoma state court against defendants World-Wide Volkswagen Corporation and Seaway Volkswagen, which were the distributor and retailer, respectively, of the automobile the Robinsons were driving at the time of the accident. Defendants, which were incorporated in New York and did business there, entered a special appearance in the litigation, asserting that Oklahoma's exercise of jurisdiction over them would offend the limitations on state jurisdiction imposed by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The trial court rejected the due process claim. Defendants then sought a writ of prohibition in the Supreme Court of Oklahoma to restrain the trial judge, respondent Honorable Charles S. Woodson, from exercising in personam jurisdiction over them. The writ was denied on the ground that personal jurisdiction was authorized by a provision of Oklahoma's "long-arm" statute. That statute authorized an Oklahoma court's exercise of in personam jurisdiction over a person who caused tortious injury in Oklahoma by an act or omission outside Oklahoma if that person regularly did or solicited business or engaged in any other persistent course of conduct, or derived substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered in Oklahoma. Defendants were granted a writ of certiorari.


Did the Oklahoma court's exercise, under its long-arm statute, of in personam jurisdiction over defendants violate due process?


Yes. The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the Supreme Court of Oklahoma's judgment denying defendants' petition for a writ of prohibition. The Court held that a state court could exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant only so long as there existed minimum contacts between the defendant and the forum state. The defendant's contacts with the forum state must be such that maintenance of the suit did not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice, and the relationship between the defendant and the forum must be such that it was reasonable to require the defendant to defend the particular suit which is brought there. In the instant case, the Court ruled, there was a total absence in the record of those affiliating circumstances that were a necessary predicate to any exercise of state-court jurisdiction. Defendants carried on no activity whatsoever in Oklahoma; they closed no sales and performed no services there, availed themselves of none of the benefits of Oklahoma law, and solicited no business there either through salespersons or through advertising reasonably calculated to reach that state.

Travelers Health Assn. v. Virginia, 339 U.S. 643 (1950)


In a proceeding under § 6 of the Virginia "Blue Sky Law," the State Corporation Commission ordered an Association, located in Nebraska and engaged in the mail order health insurance business, and its treasurer (appellants here) to cease and desist from further offerings or sales of certificates of insurance to Virginia residents until the Association had complied with the Act by furnishing information as to its financial condition, consenting to suit against it by service of process on the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and obtaining a permit. Notice of the proceeding was served on appellants by registered mail, as authorized by § 6 when other forms of service are unavailable. They appeared specially, challenged the jurisdiction of the State, and moved to quash the service of summons. On recommendations from Virginia members, the Association for many years had been issuing insurance certificates to residents of Virginia, and it had approximately 800 members there. It had caused claims for losses to be investigated, and the Virginia courts were open to it for the enforcement of obligations of certificate holders.


1. The State has power to issue a cease and desist order to enforce at least the requirement that the Association consent to suit against it by service of process on the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Pp. 339 U. S. 646-647.
2. The contacts and ties of appellants with Virginia residents, together with that State's interest in faithful observance of the certificate obligations, justify subjecting appellants to cease and desist proceedings under § 6. Pp. 339 U. S. 647-648.
3. Virginia's subjection of the Association to the jurisdiction of the State Commission in a § 6 proceeding is consistent with fair play and substantial justice, and is not offensive to the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 339 U. S. 649.
4. The power of the State to subject the Association to the jurisdiction of the State Commission and to authorize a cease and
desist order under § 6 is not vitiated by the fact that business activities carried on outside of the State are affected. P. 339 U. S. 650.
5. Service of process on appellants by registered mail did not violate the requirements of due process. Pp. 339 U. S. 650-651.
188 Va. 877, 51 S.E.2d 263, affirmed.
An order of the Virginia Corporation Commission requiring appellants to cease and desist from offering and issuing, without a permit, certificates of insurance to residents of the State, was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeals. 188 Va. 877, 51 S.E.2d 263. On appeal to this Court, affirmed, p. 339 U. S. 651.

Schmidt v. Driscoll Hotel

Driscoll Hotel illegally sold liquor to Sorrensen in Minnesota, causing the latter to be drunk so that the automobile driven by him wherein Schmidt was a passenger, turned over and thus caused injuries to Schmidt in Wisconsin. MTD for lack of COA: the law does not punish acts the result of which happened in another state. Court held that since all the parties involved are residents of Minnesota and the violation of the respondent occurred in Minnesota, its wrongful conduct was complete in Minnesota, the plaintiff, who is also a resident of Minnesota, should be allowed to recover.


Johnson Sorrensen was illegally sold liquor by Driscott Hotel Inc. (doing business as Hook-Em-Cow  Bar and Café) in Minnesota. (probably Sorrensen is a minor)
Sorrensen became intoxicated before he left the Café. Sorrensen, together with Herbert Schmidt (who is a minor), drove towards Wisconsin where the vehicle they were riding turned over, thus causing injuries to Schmidt. Thereafter, Schmidt, through his mother and natural guardian, sued Driscoll Hotel for selling the liquor illegally to Sorrensen

According to Minnesota Civil Damage Act: unless the illegal sale in the state was followed by an injury IN THAT STATE, no penalty by way of damages may be recovered (Minnesota laws DO NOT HAVE EXTRATERRITORIAL EFFECT)


Whether Schmidt could recover from the Corporation for its illegal act done in Minnesota when the injuries incurred by him happened in Wisconsin?


YES. General Rule: the place of wrong is in the state where the last event necessary to make an actor liable for an alleged tort takes place. The law of the place of wrong determines whether a person has sustained a legal injury (Restatement)

Hence, the place of the last event is Wisconsin but Wisconsin has no similar law such as that of Minnesota Civil Damage Act, then Driscoll Hotel should have not been held liable.

In the case at bar, two error was made by schmidt:
1.     By Driscott hotel: sold to sorrenson intoxicating liquors in violation of MSA - there's no tort law applicable but even if there was, there was nothing to support a claim that a defendant ever consented to be bound by Wisconsin law
2.     By Sorrenson: negligence caused the car to turn over - there might be wisconsin tort law applicable

However, both interest of Wisconsin and Minnesota would be ineffective if this would be the case!
Afford remedies it deems proper for those injured there as a result of foreign violations of liquor laws
Admonishing a liquor dealer whose violation of its statutes was the cause o such injuries and providing the injured party a remedy under Civil damages act

Exemption: when the interests/policy behind the laws would be rendered ineffective!
    • All parties are residents of Minnesota
      • Driscott Hotel was licensed under its laws and required to operate its establishment in compliance w/ Minnesota law
      • Plaintiff is a Minnesota citizen
    • Violation of Minnesota statute occurred in Minnesota, when, as a result, sorrenson became intoxicated before leaving its establishment

Ma'am: Schmidt illustrates imposition of liability under a substantive rule of tort law that has a strong underlying admonitory policy

*determination of whether the law where the tort was committed or the law of the domicile of the parties is the controlling law*
·         Law of where the tort was committed: proper law in questions involving regulation of conduct
·         Law of the domicile of the parties: governs in matters that relate to loss-distribution or financial protection

"Tortiuous liability is Transitory"
·         liability resulting from the conduct is "deemed personal to the perpetrator of the wrong, following him wherever he may go, so that compensation may be extracted from him in any proper tribunal which may obtain jurisdiction of the defendant's person
·         right to sue not confined in the place where the COA arises

When foreign tort given due course in the forum court:
·         The foreign tort is based on a civil action and not on a crime
·         The foreign tort is not contrary to the public policy of the forum
·         The judicial machinery of the forum is adequate to satisfy the claim
Problem: defendant often sued in a foreign court against his will
·         Problem of legitimacy of the jurisdiction
·         Problem of validity of the decision


Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert - 330 U.S. 501, 67 S. Ct. 839 (1947). Retrieved August 28, 2020, from https://www.lexisnexis.com/community/casebrief/p/casebrief-gulf-oil-corp-v-gilbert

World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson - 444 U.S. 286 (1976). Retrieved August 28, 2020, from https://www.lexisnexis.com/community/casebrief/p/casebrief-world-wide-volkswagen-corp-v-woodson-988759619

Schmidt v. Driscoll Hotel, Atty. Cha Mendoza. Retrieved August 28, 2020, from

Travelers Health Assn. v. Virginia, 339 U.S. 643 (1950). Retrieved August 28, 2020, from

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