Baldwin v. Powell

Decision Date05 April 1945
Citation294 N.Y. 130,61 N.E.2d 412
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesBALDWIN v. POWELL et al.


Appeal from Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department.

Action by Aura Baldwin, as administratrix of the estate of Charles H. Wiltsie, deceased, against L. R. Powell, Jr., and another, as receivers of the Seaboard Air Line Railway, to recover damages for death of plaintiff's intestate. An order of the Special Term of the Supreme Court, Hammer, J., entered in New York County, 45 N.Y.S.2d 785, denying a motion by the defendant for a dismissal of the complaint under Rules of Civil Practice, rule 106, on the ground that plaintiff had not legal capacity to sue, was reversed by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, which granted the motion, 268 App.Div. 640,47 N.Y.S.2d 665, and the plaintiff appeals.


Benjamin Levin, of New York City, for appellant.

William R. McDermott, of New York City, for respondents.

LEHMAN, Chief Judge.

The plaintiff, as administratrix of the estate of Charles H. Wiltsie, appointed by the Probate Court for the District of New Haven, State of Connecticut, where the deceased resided, has brought an action in the State of New York for damages to the estate of the deceased, resulting from his death in a collision within the State of Florida between a freight train and a passenger train, on which the deceased was employed as a conductor by the Pullman Company. The plaintiff alleges that the collision was caused solely by the negligenceof the defendants who, as receivers of a railroad company, organized within the State of Florida, operated both trains. The defendants moved for judgment dismissing the complaint ‘pursuant to Rule 106 of the Rules of Civil Practice, upon the ground that it appears on the face of the complaint that the plaintiff has not legal capacity to sue in that she is the administrator of a deceased appointed under and pursuant to the laws of the State of Connecticut.’

The law of the place where the wrong causing death occurred ‘governs the right of action for death.’ Restatements, Conflict of Laws, s 391. The Decedent Estate Law, Consol.Laws, c. 13, provides in broad terms that ‘the executor or administrator duly appointed in this state, or in any other state * * * of a decedent who has left him or her surviving a husband, wife, or next of kin, may maintain an action to recover damages for a wrongful act, neglect or default, by which the decedent's death was caused * * *’ (s 130); but this statutory provision applies only to actions brought for damages for a wrong committed here causing the death of a person. Whitford v. Panama R. Co., 23 N.Y. 465;Johnson v. Phoenix Bridge Co., 197 N.Y. 316, 90 N.E. 953;Loucks v. Standard Oil Co., 224 N.Y. 99, 120 N.E. 198. A right of action for the death of a person, which is created by another State where the wrong causing death was committed, may ordinarily be enforced in this forum even though the remedy provided in the statute creating the right of action may be different from the remedy provided in the death statute of New York. Loucks v. Standard Oil Co., supra; Restatement, Conflict of Laws, s 392. We have said that: ‘When a statute creates a liability and prescribes the person who shall have the right to enforce it, the latter is as component a part of the statutory right of action as is the former. The right of the specified person to maintain the action and his existence is as integral in the right of action as the liability of the defendant.’ Matter of Meng, 227 N.Y. 264, 277, 125 N.E. 508, 512. An action for death caused by wrongful act in Florida may be enforced here by the person designated in the death statute of the State of wrong and a person so designated in the statute of the State of wrong may sue in any State, at least if the person so designated is qualified to sue under the law of the forum. We must, therefore, look to the Florida death statute to determine who is the person designated to enforce the cause of action and to the law of New York to determine whether such person is qualified to sue in the courts here.

The Florida statute provides that a death action ‘shall be brought by and in the name of the widow or husband, as the case may be, and where there is neither widow nor husband surviving the deceased, then the minor child or children may maintain an action; and where there is neither widow nor husband, nor minor child nor children, then the action may be maintained by any person or persons dependent on such person killed for support; and where there is neither of the above classes of persons to sue, then the action may be maintained by the executor or administrator, as the case may be, of the person killed.’ Florida Statutes 1941, ss 768.01, 768.02, F.S.A. If the plaintiff's intestate had left him surviving a wife, minor child or person dependent upon him, one of them would have been the person designated in the statute to sue upon the cause of action for his death and such person could have sued in any other State either personally, or if incompetent or a minor, by another person qualified by the law of the State to bring an action in...

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31 cases
  • Meehan v. Central Railroad Company of New Jersey
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • January 12, 1960
    ...N.J.L. 662, 75 A. 913, 27 L.R.A.,N.S., 1058. See also Carter v. Pennsylvania R. Co., D.C.S.D.N.Y.1949, 9 F.R.D. 477; Baldwin v. Powell, 1945, 294 N.Y. 130, 61 N.E.2d 412. The terms "real party in interest" and "nominal party" have been the subject of conflict among several circuit courts. I......
  • Casey v. Manson Const. & Engineering Co.
    • United States
    • Oregon Supreme Court
    • June 14, 1967
    ...e.g., Ehrenzweig, Conflict of Laws 548, § 211.3 The New York wrongful death statute had no extraterritorial effect: Baldwin v. Powell, 294 N.Y. 130, 61 N.E.2d 412 (1945); Debevoise v. New York, L.E. & W.R.R. Co., 98 N.Y. 377, 50 Am.Rep. 683 (1895); McDonald v. Mallory et al., 77 N.Y. 546, 3......
  • Collins v. American Automobile Insurance Company
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • February 14, 1956
    ...a cause of action under our statute which never in fact arose." See also Wikoff v. Hirschel, 258 N.Y. 28, 179 N.E. 249; Baldwin v. Powell, 294 N.Y. 130, 61 N.E.2d 412. Of course New York adheres to the general rule that the law of the forum determines the capacity of the parties to sue and ......
  • Rosenthal v. Warren
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • February 13, 1973
    ...Formerly New York probably would have applied the law of Massachusetts under the simplistic rule of lex loci delicti. Baldwin v. Powell, 294 N.Y. 130, 61 N.E.2d 412 (1945); Whitford v. Panama Railroad Co., 23 N.Y. 465 (1861). But cf. Conklin v. Canadian-Colonial Airways, Inc., 266 N.Y. 244,......
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