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Choosing The Right Law When Multiple Jurisdictions Involved

I recently settled a wrongful death action involving an elderly woman who was a passenger in a single-car accident occurring in Massachusetts. The tortfeasor/driver had a small bodily injury insurance policy, thereby making it critical to maximize the recovery from decedent’s own underinsurance policy. The complication, however, was that the vehicle upon which the underinsurance policy was based was registered and garaged in New Hampshire; in addition, the underinsurance policy itself required that the New Hampshire rules of civil procedure apply. Finally, decedent herself was a New Hampshire resident.

Under New Hampshire law, the measure of damages in a death action was the “probable duration of the decedent’s life, but for the injury”. In Massachusetts, however, the measure of damages is the loss suffered by the surviving heirs, i.e., a consortium-like calculation. Because decedent had two adult, single, emancipated children who had a very unique and ongoing emotional dependence on their mother, it was critical that we convince the opposing side that Massachusetts law should apply. We based our argument on the Restatement of Law, Conflict of Laws section, as well as other facts and legal analyses which supporting our contention. The other side agreed and we eventually settled this death action, while applying Massachusetts law, for a total of $1M.

It is critical that you avail yourself of experienced and knowledgeable tort lawyers when pursuing complicated legal matters- here at Harris & Associates, we are happy to assist you.