Hall v. University of Nevada

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Citation74 Cal.App.3d 280,503 P.2d 1363,141 Cal.Rptr. 439
Decision Date24 October 1977
PartiesJohn Michael HALL, Minor, by and through his Guardian ad Litem, John C. Hall and Patricia Hall, Plaintiffs and Respondents, v. UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA and the State of Nevada, Defendants and Appellants. Civ. 40858.

Robert List, Atty. Gen. of the State of Nevada, Michael W. Dyer, Scott Heaton, Deputy Attys. Gen., Carson City, Nev., Bronson, Bronson & McKinnon, San Francisco, for defendants and appellants.

Tunney, Carlyle, Rogers & Vanasse by Eric D. Carlyle, Bostwick & Rowe by Everett P. Rowe, San Jose, for plaintiffs and respondents.

EMERSON, * Associate Justice.

Defendants-appellants University of Nevada and the State of Nevada appeal from a judgment in the amount of $1,150,000 entered against them in an action brought by respondents for damages for personal injuries. The injuries resulted from a collision between a vehicle occupied by respondents and one driven by Helmut Bohm. It is conceded that, at the time of the accident, Bohm was an employee of the university, a governmental arm of Nevada, and was engaged in official university business. The fact of his agency was not disputed at trial. The accident occurred in California.

Prior to the trial of the case, appellants moved to quash service of summons on the ground that, under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, Nevada was not subject to suit in California. That motion was granted. Respondents appealed from the order and in Hall v. University of Nevada (1972) 8 Cal.3d 522, 105 Cal.Rptr. 355, 503 P.2d 1363, the California Supreme Court reversed, unanimously holding that appellants were not immune from suit in California for the driving of their agent within the scope of his employment or for the permissive use of their car within this state. (Id., at p. 526, 105 Cal.Rptr. 355, 503 P.2d 1363.) Nevada's petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court was denied. (414 U.S. 820, 94 S.Ct. 114, 38 L.Ed.2d 52.)

The Hall decision notwithstanding, immediately prior to the trial of this case, appellants moved for an order limiting damages to $25,000 per person pursuant to Nevada Revised Statutes section 41.035. That statute, hereafter referred to as NRS 41.035, is part of the legislation by which Nevada has waived its immunity from suit. The waiver, as pertinent herein, is found in the following statutes:

Nevada Revised Statutes section 41.031 provides that "The State of Nevada hereby waives its immunity from liability and action and hereby consents to have its liability determined in accordance with the same rules of law as are applied to civil action against individuals and corporations . . . ."

NRS 41.035 states in relevant part: "No award for damages in an action sounding in tort brought under NRS 41.031 may exceed the sum of $25,000 . . . to or for the benefit of any claimant." The combined thrust of these statutes is that Nevada has chosen to waive its sovereign immunity, but to limit such waiver to $25,000 per claimant. (See State v. Silva (1971) 86 Nev. 911, 478 P.2d 591.)

Appellants' motion to limit damages was denied by the trial court. The correctness of this ruling is the sole issue on appeal.

Nevada devotes much of its brief to the re-argument of Hall v. University of Nevada, supra, still contending that it cannot be sued in any court without its consent. Such an argument before this court is futile. We are bound by the Supreme Court's ruling that Nevada is not immune from suit. (Auto Equity Sales, Inc. v. Superior Court (1962) 57 Cal.2d 450, 455, 20 Cal.Rptr. 321, 369 P.2d 937.)

Appellants' next contention is that, if Nevada is held to be liable in California, that liability must be subject to the $25,000 limit imposed by NRS 41.035. That argument is based on the assumption that, in Hall v. University of Nevada, supra, the Supreme Court held that Nevada was subject to suit in this state because it had waived its sovereign immunity. It is argued, in effect, that if California accepts the waiver, it must accept the limitation.

This premise misconceives the point of Hall. The Supreme Court did not hold that Nevada had waived sovereign immunity or had given its implied consent to be sued in California. It held simply that Nevada's sovereign protection does not extend beyond its own borders: "We have concluded that sister states who engage in activities within California are subject to our laws with respect to those activities and are subject to suit in California courts with respect to those activities. When the sister state enters into activities in this state, it is not exercising sovereign power over the citizens of this state and is not entitled to the benefits of the sovereign immunity doctrine as to those activities unless this state has conferred immunity by law or as a matter of comity." (8 Cal.3d at p. 524, 105 Cal.Rptr. at p. 356, 503 P.2d at p. 1364.) The court reviewed developments in the law of sovereign immunity in a foreign jurisdiction and concluded that recent cases "reflect that state sovereignty ends at the state boundary." (Id., at p. 525, 105 Cal.Rptr. at p. 357, 503 P.2d at p. 1365.) After holding that the state and University of Nevada were not immune from suit in California, the court noted that this conclusion "makes it unnecessary to consider plaintiffs' further contention that the State of Nevada has consented by statute to suit in California." (Id.., at p. 526, 105 Cal.Rptr. at p. 358, 503 P.2d at p. 1366.)

That the limitation imposed by NRS 41.035 is totally inapplicable to this case is made clear by footnote 4 of Hall v. University of Nevada, supra, stating: "Plaintiffs urge that Nevada has abrogated sovereign immunity by statute. The state and the university claim that the waiver of immunity was a limited one and that the statutory provisions abrogating immunity should be interpreted as permitting action in the courts of Nevada only. Since we conclude that Nevada does not have immunity from liability for its activities in California, the extent to which Nevada has waived immunity by statute and the extent, if any, to which it can or has limited the statutory waiver is immaterial. Even if we assume that Nevada limited its statutory waiver of immunity to actions in its courts, such limitation would not be applicable to the instant case involving activities in California because the sovereignty of one state does not extend into the territory of another." (Hall, supra, at p. 526, 105 Cal.Rptr. at p. 358, 503 P.2d at p. 1366, emphasis added.)

Nevada also attempts to argue that application of NRS 41.035 to the present case is required by the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution. The contention is without merit. It is well settled that the purpose of the full faith and credit clause was not to give the statutes of one state extraterritorial force in another. (5 Witkin, Summary of Cal.Law (8th ed. 1974) Constitutional Law, § 16, p. 3260.) The United States Supreme Court has long since established that a forum state may refuse to apply a sister state's statutes where such enforcement would be contrary to its own public policy. (Bradford Elec. Co. v. Clapper (1932) 286 U.S. 145, 160, 52 S.Ct. 571, 76 L.Ed. 1026; Pacific Ins. Co. v. Comm'n. (1939) 306 U.S. 493, 501-502, 59 S.Ct. 629, 83 L.Ed. 940.)...

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9 cases
  • Cubbage v. Merchent, 83-6241
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 3 October 1984
    ...its choice of law rules, would apply its own substantive law rather than the law of Arizona. See Hall v. Univ. of Nevada, 74 Cal.App.3d 280, 285-86, 141 Cal.Rptr. 439, 441-42 (1977) (where both states have an interest in having their respective laws applied, the court seeks to determine whi......
  • Padilla v. Pueblo of Acoma, 16835
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • 9 May 1988
    ...in another sovereign's courts. Nevada v. Hall, 440 U.S. 410, 99 S.Ct. 1182, 59 L.Ed.2d 416 (1979), aff'g Hall v. University of Nevada, 74 Cal.App.3d 280, 141 Cal.Rptr. 439 (1977) (Hall II ). For reasons well articulated in Hicks v. State, 88 N.M. 588, 544 P.2d 1153 (1975), the doctrine of s......
  • Head v. Platte County, Mo., 60139
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • 15 January 1988
    ......251. .         Holcomb was relied upon by the California Supreme Court in Hall v. University of Nevada, 8 Cal.3d 522, 105 Cal.Rptr. 355, 503 P.2d 1363 (1972) cert. denied 414 ......
  • Nevada v. Hall, 77-1337
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 5 March 1979
    ...... .           The respondents are California residents. They suffered severe injuries in an automobile collision on a California highway on May 13, 1968. The driver of the other vehicle, an employee of the University of Nevada, was killed in the collision. It is conceded that he was driving a car owned by the State, that he was engaged in official business, and that the University is an instrumentality of the State itself. .           Respondents filed this suit for damages in the Superior Court ......
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