Chase v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., CC

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Citation195 S.E.2d 810,156 W.Va. 444
Docket NumberNo. CC,CC
Parties, 62 A.L.R.3d 1284 Eugene F. CHASE, Executor of the Estate of Rosalie R. Chase v. GREYHOUND LINES, INC., a corporation, et al. 884.
Decision Date27 February 1973
Syllabus by the Court

1. A parent cannot maintain an action against his unemancipated infant to recover damages for the wrongful death of the parent's spouse caused by the infant's negligence in driving a truck which pulled a camper in which the spouse was a passenger.

2. The public policy of the law of this State does not bar an action for negligence which involves the claim of one sibling against another sibling.

3. The immunity from action between parent and child does not extend to and bar an action for wrongful death instituted in the courts of this State by a parent, as the personal representative of his deceased spouse, against his unemancipated child to recover damages only in behalf of other children of his deceased spouse, siblings of the defendant, where the death occurred in another state which by statute created a cause of action accruing directly to the benefit of such children of the deceased, and where under the law of the state in which the cause of action arose it is maintainable although the defendant child is barred from participation in any recovery of damages; the personal representative parent, however, although a member of the class of beneficiaries designated by statute in the state in which the cause of action arose as being entitled to recover damages in a wrongful death action, is barred from participation in any recovery by the public policy of this state which prohibits actions between parent and child.

4. The immunity from action between parent and unemancipated infants bars recovery of funeral expenses in a wrongful death action maintainable in this State by a parent against his unemancipated infant, where the parent, as the executor of the estate of his deceased wife has incurred such expenses. Frank V. Sansalone, Fairmont, for plaintiff.

Furbee, Amos, Webb & Critchfield, Alfred J. Lemley, Fairmont, for defendants.


This case, which is before the Court on certification from the Circuit Court of Marion County involves a civil action instituted in that court by the plaintiff, Eugene F. Chase, as the executor of the estate of his wife, Rosalie R. Chase, against Greyhound Lines, Inc., Henderson Manufacturing Company, Ridge Runner Industries, Inc., and Stephen E. Chase, as the defendants, to recover damages for the death of the plaintiff's decedent. However, the questions certified for decision relate solely to whether the civil action may be maintained against the defendant, Stephen E. Chase, who is the natural son of the plaintiff and his deceased wife.

On the 19th day of July, 1971, the defendant Stephen E. Chase, then sixteen years of age and an unemancipated child, was driving a 1968 Ford truck which was owned by the plaintiff in his individual capacity. The family had been attending a religious meeting near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and while there utilized a 'camper'. On the trip from Harrisburg to Marion County, West Virginia, the defendant Stephen E. Chase, was driving the truck which pulled the camper. The deceased, Rosalie R. Chase, was riding in the camper. At a place near Napier Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the camper was struck in the left rear by a bus owned by Greyhound Lines, Inc. As a result of the collision, Rosalie R. Chase was thrown from the camper, and died as a result of the injuries she received. On August 3, 1971, the plaintiff was appointed and duly qualified as the executor of the estate of his deceased wife. The decedent left the following survivors: Her surviving spouse, Eugene F. Chase; surviving children: Stephen E. Chase, Trujean Chase, Mary Jo Bates, Rebecca Pitrolo, Kathleen McCarty, Nancy Long, Glenna Chicas and Elizabeth Fawcett.

The plaintiff filed his complaint in the Circuit Court of Marion County, West Virginia, in July, 1972. The defendant, Stephen E. Chase, on September 15, 1972, moved to dismiss the complaint against him on the ground that the plaintiff's cause of action against him was barred by the public policy of the law of this State which prohibits an action for personal injuries between a parent and child. A stipulation between counsel for the plaintiff and the defendant, Stephen E. Chase, concerning the essential facts of the case was attached to and made a part of the motion to dismiss.

By an order entered on October 17, 1972, the Circuit Court of Marion County granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint, and directed that the ruling be certified to this Court, staying the proceedings in the action pending the decision of the questions certified.

The questions certified by the Circuit Court of Marion County, upon its own motion and the motion of counsel for the plaintiff, are as follows:

'1. Can the executor of a deceased mother maintain an action in West Virginia, under the Pennsylvania law, for the wrongful death, alleging simple negligence, against a surviving unemancipated child for damages arising out of an accident causing the death of the mother, where the beneficiaries named are infant and adult sisters of the defendant, the father, and the defendant.

'2. Can the said executor maintain said action in West Virginia, under the Pennsylvania law, for the funeral, expenses and other expenses, the recovery of which is demanded in the complaint.'

Although the circuit court's inquiry consists of two questions, it is essentially comprised of four basic questions, each requiring separate examination under our public policy relating to intrafamily immunity. The four basic parts to the certified questions are treated separately: Can such an action as the instant one be maintained against the infant defendant son when the beneficiaries are (1) the infant and adult sisters of the defendant; (2) the father; (3) the defendant; and (4) the father as executor to the extent of the funeral expenses?

The wrongful death complained of in this action occurred in Pennsylvania. The wrongful death statutes of that Commonwealth, therefore, govern the substantive law applicable to this case unless barred by our public policy. This Court has held repeatedly that the substantive law of the lex loci shall apply in transitory actions unless contrary to the public policy of the lex fori. Lambert v. The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, W.Va., pt. 1 syl., 184 S.E.2d 118; Edwards v. Lynch, W.Va., pt. 1 syl., 175 S.E.2d 632; Thornsbury v. Thornsbury, 147 W.Va. 771, pt. 1 syl., 131 S.E.2d 713; Poling v. Poling, 116 W.Va. 187, 179 S.E.2d 604.

The applicable provisions of the wrongful death statutes of Pennsylvania are as follows:

12 P.S. § 1601: 'Whenever death shall be occasioned by unlawful violence or negligence, and no suit for damages be brought by the party injured during his or her life, the widow of any such deceased, or if there be no widow, the personal representatives may maintain an action for and recover damages for the death thus occasioned.'

12 P.S. § 1602: 'The persons entitled to recover damages for any injuries causing death shall be the husband, widow, children, or parents of the deceased, and no other relatives; * * * and the sum recovered shall go to them in the proportion they would take his or her personal estate in case of intestacy, and that without liability to creditors under the laws of this Commonwealth * * *'

12 P.S. § 1604: '* * * and plaintiff may also recover the reasonable funeral expenses of the deceased, if plaintiff has paid or incurred such expenses.'

The uncontroverted interpretation of these statutes by the courts of Pennsylvania is that a cause of action for wrongful death accrues directly to the beneficiaries specifically designated by statute. Greene v. Basti, 391 F.2d 892, 894 (3rd Cir.); Pezzulli v. D'Ambrosia, 344 Pa. 643, 26 A.2d 659; Kaczorowski v. Kalkosinski, 321 Pa. 438, 440, 184 A. 663, 664.

Under Pennsylvania law the negligence of a beneficiary does not prohibit recovery under the wrongful death statutes unless no other members of the group exist. Such negligence on the part of a beneficiary merely prevents him from sharing in any recovery. Burns v. Goldberg, 210 F.2d 646, 649 (3rd Cir.); Stafford v. Roadway Transit Co., 70 F.Supp. 555, D.C.Pa.; Minkin v. Minkin, 336 Pa. 49, 7 A.2d 461.

An action for wrongful death may be brought in Pennsylvania by an administrator or executor of the estate of a deceased person. Such an action, however, is maintainable not for the benefit of the estate of the deceased person but rather for the benefit of specifically enumerated beneficiaries. Funk v. Buckley, 158 Pa.Super. 586, 45 A.2d 918; Minkin v. Minkin, 336 Pa. 49, 7 A.2d 461. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania held in the Funk case that an action for wrongful death is based upon the 'liability of the tort-feasor to decedent's dependents, notwithstanding that * * * the action is brought for them by the personal representatives'. Funk v. Buckley, Supra, 158 Pa.Super. at 591, 45 A.2d at 921. Moreover, under the provisions of Pa.R.C.P. 2202(b), 12 P.S. Appendix, which applies only to wrongful death actions, if no action is commenced within a period of six months after the death of the decedent, then the action may be brought 'by any person entitled by law to recover damages in such action as trustee ad litem on behalf of all persons entitled to share in damages'.

When Rosalie R. Chase died on the highways of Pennsylvania, a right of action was created under the Pennsylvania wrongful death statutes against the defendant son, Stephen E. Chase, for the direct benefit of her husband and children, except the defendant son, Stephen.

It is the Pennsylvania law that damages may be recovered on behalf of any of the beneficiary individuals who have actually paid...

To continue reading

Request your trial
9 cases
  • In re Silver Bridge Disaster Litigation, M. D. L. No. 39.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • July 12, 1974 that state, and Ohio law to those dying in Ohio. West Virginia applies the rule of lex locus delicti. Chase v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 195 S.E.2d 810 (Sup.Ct.App.W.Va.1973); Schade v. Smith, 117 W.Va. 703, 188 S.E. 114 (Sup.Ct.App.W.Va.1936); Dallas v. Whitney, 118 W.Va. 106, 188 S.E. 766......
  • Jilani By and Through Jilani v. Jilani, C-7481
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • December 14, 1988
    ...227 (Tenn.1985); Langley v. National Lead Co., 666 S.W.2d 343, 345 (Tex.App.--El Paso 1984, no writ); Chase v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 156 W.Va. 444, 453, 195 S.E.2d 810, 815 3 See Turner v. Turner, 304 N.W.2d 786, 789-90 (Iowa 1981) (LeGrand, J., dissenting). Accord Rousey v. Rousey, 528 A.......
  • Paul v. National Life
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • January 12, 1987
    ...160 W.Va. 71, 230 S.E.2d 470 (1977); In Re Silver Bridge Disaster Litigation, 381 F.Supp. 931 (S.D.W.Va.1974); Chase v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 156 W.Va. 444, 195 S.E.2d 810 (1973); Lambert v. The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, 155 W.Va. 397, 184 S.E.2d 118 (1971); Edwards v. Lynch,......
  • Lastowski v. Norge Coin-O-Matic, Inc., COIN-O-MATI
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • April 8, 1974
    ...conduct toward a child. Some courts have clung to this rule in the face of the trend to abolish the immunity (e.g., Chase v. Greyhound Lines, 195 S.E.2d 810 (W.Va.); Bahr v. Bahr, 478 S.W.2d 400 (Mo.)). We consider this approach to be irrelevant in New York after Gelbman v. Gelbman, 23 N.Y.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT