Cipolla v. Shaposka

Citation439 Pa. 563,267 A.2d 854
PartiesMichael F. CIPOLLA, a minor, by his Parents and Guardians, John Cipolla and Anna Cipolla, and John Cipolla and Anna Cipolla, in Their own right, Appellants, v. John SHAPOSKA, Jr.
Decision Date02 July 1970
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Page 854

267 A.2d 854
439 Pa. 563
Michael F. CIPOLLA, a minor, by his Parents and Guardians,
John Cipolla and Anna Cipolla, and John Cipolla
and Anna Cipolla, in Their own right, Appellants,
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
July 2, 1970.

[439 Pa. 564]

Page 855

Charles C. Keeler, Chester, for appellants.

Harry J. Bradley, Media, for appellee.

[439 Pa. 563] Before BELL, C.J., and JONES, COHEN, EAGEN, O'BRIEN, ROBERTS and POMEROY, JJ.


COHEN, Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment entered against Michael Cipolla and his parents and natural guardians, appellants, in accordance with Pa.R.C.P. 1035, 12 P.S. Appendix. The record indicates that Michael Cipolla and John Shaposka, Jr., appellee, are former schoolmates at the Brown Technical School in Wilmington, Delaware. On January 24, 1966 after classes had ended for the day, appellee was driving Michael to appellants' home in Pennsylvania when the automobile in which they were riding became involved in a collision in Delaware in which Michael was injured. Shaposka is a Delaware resident as is his father in whose name the car was registered in Delaware.

The sole question involved in this appeal is whether the legal effect of the guesthost relationship should be determined by Delaware or Pennsylvania law. If Delaware law applies, appellants will be barred from recovering since Delaware's Guest Statute, Del.Code Ann. tit. 21, § 6101(a), prohibits a guest from recovering for his host's negligence. The statute does permit recovery for intentional or wilful or wanton misconduct, but appellants argue only that appellee was guilty of ordinary negligence. Pennsylvania has no guest statute, [439 Pa. 565] and if its law applies, appellants will be able to recover if they can prove appellee was negligent. The court below concluded that Delaware law applied and granted appellee's motion for summary judgment.

Under our decisions in Kuchinic v. McCrory, 422 Pa. 620, 222 A.2d 897 (1966), McSwain v. McSwain, 420 Pa. 86, 215 A.2d 677 (1966), and Griffith v. United Air Lines, Inc., 416 Pa. 1, 203 A.2d 796 (1964), we must determine whether Delaware or Pennsylvania has the greater interest in the application of its law to the question now before us. At the outset it might be noted that this case is much more difficult than either Kuchinic or McSwain for both of those cases presented a false conflict; that is, an analysis of the policies behind the competing laws indicated that in each case the application of one state's law (in Kuchinic, Georgia; in McSwain, Colorado) would not further those policies, Cavers, The Choice-of-Law Process, 29--30 (1965); Kuchinic, supra 422 Pa. at 624 n. 4, 222

Page 856

A.2d 897. The fact that Cipolla is a resident of Pennsylvania which has adopted a plaintiff-protecting rule and Shaposka is a resident of Delaware which has adopted a defendant-protecting rule takes this case out of that category and requires us to undertake a deeper analysis than was necessary in those cases. 1

[439 Pa. 566] In determining which state has the greater interest in the application of its law, one method is to see what contacts each state has with the accident, the contacts being relevant only if they relate to the 'policies and interest underlying the particular issue before the court.' Griffith, supra 416 Pa. at 21, 203 A. at 805. When doing this it must be remembered that a mere counting of contacts is not what is involved. The weight of a particular state's contacts must be measured on a qualitative rather than quantitative scale. Tooker v. Lopez, 24 N.Y.2d 569, 576, 301 N.Y.S.2d 519, 524, 249 N.E.2d 394 (1969).

As it is Pennsylvania's policy that its guests should be permitted to recover for injuries caused by their hosts' negligence and as appellants are Pennsylvania residents, Pennsylvania is a concerned jurisdiction and has a contact relevant to the issue before us. This is the only relevant contact with Pennsylvania, however. As it is Delaware's policy that its hosts should not be required to compensate their guests for their (the hosts) negligence and as appellee is a Delaware resident, Delaware is a concerned jurisdiction and has a contact relevant to the issue before us. The fact that the automobile involved in the accident is registered and housed in Delaware gives that state another contact for it appears that insurance rates will depend on the state in which the automobile is housed rather than the domicile of the owner or driver. Morris, Enterprise Liability and the Actuarial Process--The Insignificance of Foresight, 70 Yale L.J. 554, 574 (1961). Thus, it appears that Delaware's contacts are qualitatively greater than Pennsylvania's and that it has the greater interest in having its law applied to the issue before us. 2

[439 Pa. 567] Also, it seems only fair to permit a defendant to rely on his home state law when he is acting within that state. 3

'Consider the response that would be accorded a proposal that was the opposite of this principle if it were advanced against a person living in the state of injury on behalf of a person coming there from a state having a higher standard of care or of financial protection. The proposal thus advanced would require the community the visitor entered to step up its standard of behavior for his greater safety or lift its financial protection to the level to which he was accustomed. Such a proposal would be rejected as unfair. By entering the state or nation, the visitor has exposed himself to the risk of the territory and should not subject persons living there to a financial hazard that their law had not created.' Cavers, supra at 146--7.

Inhabitants of a state should not be put in jeopardy of liability exceeding that created

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by their state's laws just because a visitor from a state offering higher protection decides to visit there. This is, of course, a highly territorial approach, but 'departures from the territorial view of torts ought not to be lightly undertaken.' Gordon v. Parker, 83 F.Supp. 40, 42 (D.Mass.1949). 'To withdraw * * * actions and affairs from the reach of domestic law because the persons (or at least one of the persons) participating in them are not domestic to the state causes a wrench away from customary attitudes towards law that may lead the disadvantaged party to 'regard the distinction as involving a personal discrimination against him rather than as a step toward comity between states. " Cavers, supra at 135. The very use of the term true conflict implies that there is no one correct answer, but as a general approach a territorial view seems perferable to a personal view.

[439 Pa. 568] These approaches to the solution of this true conflict lead to the conclusion that and both qualitatively and quantitatively greater than Pennsylvania's.

Judgment affirmed.

[439 Pa. 563] BELL, C.J., filed a concurring opinion.

ROBERTS, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

[439 Pa. 568] BELL, Chief Justice...

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