Consistent Choice of Law: Rexroad v. Greenwood Motor Lines, Inc.

“People do not take the laws of their home state with them when they travel but are subject to the laws of the state in which they act.” Simon v. U.S., 805 N.E.2d 798, 807 (Ind. 2004).

Facts and Procedural History

On February 14, 2012, Arnold Rexroad Sr., an Illinois resident, was driving a tractor-trailer on I-70 in Hendricks County, Indiana when he began to experience mechanical difficulties and pulled his tractor-trailer onto the right shoulder to call a tow truck. As Rexroad’s tractor-trailer was being loaded onto the tow truck, a tractor-trailer operated by a Greenwood Motor Lines driver collided with Rexroad’s vehicle killing Rexroad.

Rexroad was survived by his wife and children who brought the suit against Greenwood alleging negligence resulting in Rexroad’s death. During pre-trial conferences, the Rexroad family requested Illinois law, rather than Indiana law, be applied to the case. Unlike Indiana, Illinois permits recovery by all of the deceased’s children, adult as well as minor.

Choice of Law

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the determination in this case relying on  Simon v. U.S., 805 N.E.2d 798, (Ind. 2004), where the Indiana Supreme Court held that the presumption of applying the lex loci delicti (the place of the wrong) rule is strong and difficult to overcome. The rationale behind lex loci delicti is that the laws of the state where the tort occurred usually govern the conduct of the parties, unless the place of the tort bears little connection to the legal action. Automobile accidents generally do not overcome lex loci delicti.  Rexroad argued that because Greenwood admitted liability for the accident, the location of the accident was no longer relevant.  The court held that Indiana law undoubtedly applied to liability in the case, regardless of whether liability was admitted.  The court refused to apply Indiana law to determine liability and Illinois law to determine damages. Therefore, is the question of damages was governed by Indiana law.

Filed Under: Trial Practice

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