Edwards, et al. v. Erie Coach Lines Co., et al.; Godwin, et al. v. Trentway-Wagar, Inc., et al.; Butler v. Stagecoach Group, PLC, et al.; Cowan, et al. v. Stagecoach Group, PLC, et al.; Davidson v. Coach USA, Inc., et al.; Roach, et al. v. Coach USA, IncAnnotate this Case
These six lawsuits involved an accident near Geneseo, New York, where a charter bus carrying members of an Ontario women's hockey team plowed into the rear-end of a tractor-trailer parked on the shoulder of the highway. The charter bus's driver, his employer, and the company that leased the bus were Ontario domiciliaries (collectively, bus defendants), as were all the injured and deceased passengers. The tractor-trailer driver was a Pennsylvania domiciliary, as were his employer and the companies that hired the trailer (collectively, trailer defendants). In a certified question from the Appellate Division, the court was called upon to decide the choice-of-law issue presented by the lawsuits, which were brought to recover damages for wrongful death and/or personal injuries. As a preliminary matter, the court held that the lower courts were not foreclosed from engaging in choice-of-law analysis where CPLR 3016(e) must be read together with CPLR 4511(e). The court concluded that Ontario had weighed the interests of tortfeasors and their victims in cases of catastrophic personal injury, and had elected to safeguard its domiciliaries from large awards for non-pecuniary damages. Therefore, in lawsuits brought in New York by Ontario-domiciled plaintiffs against Ontario-domiciled defendants, the bus defendants in this case, the court held that New York courts should respect Ontario's decision, which differed from but certainly did not offend New York's public policy. The court held, however, that there was no cause to contemplate a jurisdiction other than New York with respect to the trailer defendants where the conduct causing injuries and the injuries themselves occurred in New York. The trailer defendants did not ask the Supreme Court to consider the law of their domicile, Pennsylvania, and they had no contacts whatsoever with Ontario other than the happenstance that plaintiffs and the bus defendants were domiciled there. Accordingly, the orders in these cases should be modified in accordance with this opinion.