July 11, the New York Fourth Department Appellate Division Court ruled a lawsuit in Lankenau v Boles (CA 13-01300), on a conflict of laws involving a tractor-trailer crash involving New York driver defendants. The question of whether New York’s common law seat belt rule applies to an accident which occurred in Pennsylvania, but which was sued in New York. It is not uncommon to have trucking companies and big rig drivers from out-of-state, car documents from one state and the accident in a third state. The courts must decide which states laws applied, or resolve conflict of laws among states.
The short answer is that the court applied NY law to the Pennsylvania crash, In the Lankenau court applied New York law which allowed a deduction of the award to the plaintiff who did not wear a seat belt (see Spier v Barker, 35 NY2d 444), rather than Pennsylvania law, which prohibits introduction of proof that a plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt.
The rule on choice of law is that, with respect to a “conduct-regulating” rule, the jurisdiction where the tort occurred has the greater interest in regulating conduct within its borders. But with “loss allocating” rules, the jurisdiction where the tort happened has only a limited interest in applying its own law, as opposed to the jurisdiction in which the case is pending.
The Court ruled that since New York common law on seat belt usage serves to allocate the loss, by way of the rule of comparative negligence, the court applied NY law. For more details, see the case: