Day Zimmermann, Inc v. Challoner

Decision Date03 November 1975
Docket NumberNo. 75-245,75-245
Citation96 S.Ct. 167,46 L.Ed.2d 3,423 U.S. 3
PartiesDAY & ZIMMERMANN, INC. v. Hawley K. CHALLONER et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

PER CURIAM.

Respondents sued petitioner in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas seeking to recover damages for death and personal injury resulting from the premature explosion of a 105-mm. howitzer round in Cambodia. Federal jurisdiction was based on diversity of citizenship. The District Court held that the Texas law of strict liability in tort governed and submitted the case to the jury on that theory. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed a judgment in favor of respondents. 512 F.2d 77 (1975).

The Court of Appeals stated that were it to apply Texas choice-of-law rules, the substantive law of Cambodia, the place of injury, would certainly control as to the wrongful death, and perhaps as to the claim for personal injury. It declined nevertheless to apply Texas choice-of-law rules, based in part on an earlier decision in Lester v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 433 F.2d 884 (CA5 1970), cert. denied, 402 U.S. 909, 91 S.Ct. 1382, 28 L.Ed.2d 650 (1971), which it summarized as holding that "(w)e refused to look to the Louisiana conflict of law rule, deciding that as a matter of federal choice of law, we could not apply the law of a jurisdiction that had no interest in the case, no policy at stake." 512 F.2d at 80 (emphasis in original). The Court of Appeals further supported its decision on the grounds that the rationale for applying the traditional conflicts rule applied by Texas "is not operative under the present facts"; and that it was "a Court of the United States, an instrumentality created to effectuate the laws and policies of the United States."

We believe that the Court of Appeals either misinterpreted our longstanding decision in Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 61 S.Ct. 1020, 85 L.Ed. 1477 (1941), or else determined for itself that it was no longer of controlling force in a case such as this. We are of the opinion that Klaxon, is by its terms applicable here and should have been adhered to by the Court of Appeals. In Klaxon, supra, at 496, 61 S.Ct., at 1021, this Court said:

"The conflict of laws rules to be applied by the federal court in Delaware must conform to those prevailing in Delaware's state courts. Otherwise, the accident of diversity of citizenship would constantly disturb equal administration of justice in coordinate state and federal courts sitting side by side. See Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, (304 U.S. 64, 74-77, 58 S.Ct. 817, 820-822, 82 L.Ed. 1188 (1938))."

By parity of reasoning, the conflict-of-laws rules to be applied by a federal court in Texas must conform to those prevailing in the Texas state courts. A federal court in a diversity case is not free...

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    ...Membership Corp., 506 F.3d 304, 314 (4th Cir. 2007) (alteration and quotation omitted); see Day & Zimmermann, Inc. v. Challoner, 423 U.S. 3, 4, 96 S.Ct. 167, 46 L.Ed.2d 3 (1975) (per curiam); Wade v. Danek Med., Inc., 182 F.3d 281, 286 (4th Cir. 1999). Under Rule 4 of the North Carolina Rul......
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    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York
    • February 21, 1984
    ...to yield to the more modern thinking of conflicts-of-laws scholars." C. Wright, id. at 368. See, e.g., Day and Zimmerman, Inc. v. Challoner, 423 U.S. 3, 96 S.Ct. 167, 46 L.Ed.2d 3 (1975). Much of the law of conflicts is in a state of flux, development and refinement. Any dogmatism as to the......
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    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • January 21, 1987
    ...the district court must apply the conflict-of-law rules of the State in which the court sits. See Day & Zimmerman, Inc. v. Challoner, 423 U.S. 3, 4, 96 S.Ct. 167, 168, 46 L.Ed.2d 3 (1975); Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496, 61 S.Ct. 1020, 1021, 85 L.Ed. 1477 (1941) ......
  • Bynum v. FMC Corp.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • September 13, 1985
    ...a design defect is alleged. In Challoner v. Day & Zimmermann, Inc., 512 F.2d 77 (5th Cir.), vacated on other grounds, 423 U.S. 3, 96 S.Ct. 167, 46 L.Ed.2d 3 (1975), for example, we found that under Texas law the plaintiff in a strict liability action had the burden of showing only that the ......
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2 firm's commentaries
  • CPAP MDL Overinflates Plaintiffs’ Claims
    • United States
    • LexBlog United States
    • December 4, 2023
    ...federal court, but which have not commended themselves to the State in which the federal court sits.” Day & Zimmerman, Inc. v. Challoner, 423 U.S. 3, 4 (1975). “The proper function” of a federal court “is to ascertain what the state law is, not what it ought to be.” Klaxon Co. v. Stentor El......
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    • LexBlog United States
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    ...of New Jersey? Here, at least, the answer was that you cannot mix and match like that. Based on Day & Zimmerman, Inc. v. Challoner, 423 U.S. 3 (1975), the analysis for determining whether to apply the substantive law of a foreign country is the same as for substantive state law. 2022 WL 410......
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  • Beyond DOMA: choice of state law in federal statutes.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 64 No. 6, June 2012
    • June 1, 2012
    ...must conform to those prevailing in Delaware's state courts."). (222.) See id. at 496. (223.) Day & Zimmermann, Inc. v. Challoner, 423 U.S. 3, 4 (1975) (per (224.) Some modern scholars have criticized Klaxon, suggesting that it is a bad decision even in its original context of diversity......
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    • ABA Antitrust Library Business Torts and Unfair Competition Handbook Business tort litigation
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    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 169 No. 8, August 2021
    • August 1, 2021
    ...to those prevailing in Delaware's state courts."). (33) Id. at 496-97. (34) See, e.g., id.; Day & Zimmermann, Inc. v. Challoner, 423 U.S. 3 (35) See, e.g., Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 74-75 (1938) (explaining the Court's decision to overturn the discriminatory Swifl v. Tyson dec......
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    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 156 No. 6, June 2008
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    ...state court litigation, it has no bearing on litigation in federal court. See infra note 259. (247) Day & Zimmerman, Inc. v. Challoner, 423 U.S. 3, 4-5 (248) 313 U.S. 487 (1941) (holding that federal courts in diversity cases must apply the choice of law rules of the state in which they......
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