Nolan v. Transocean Air Lines

Decision Date20 February 1961
Docket NumberNo. 107,107
Citation81 S.Ct. 555,5 L.Ed.2d 571,365 U.S. 293
PartiesRobert F. NOLAN, Administrator, et al., Petitioners, v. TRANSOCEAN AIR LINES
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Robert A. Dwyer, New York City, for petitioners.

Mr. William J. Junkerman, New York City, for respondent.


This action was brought in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to recover damages for the wrongful death of Jasper W. Hall, a resident of South Carolina, who was killed in California in the crash of an airplane operated by defendant-respondent Transocean Air Lines. Plaintiffs, petitioners here, are the decedent's South Carolina-appointed administrator, decedent's widow, and decedent's minor child, who sues through the widow, her mother, appointed her guardian ad litem by the District Court. Federal jurisdiction was predicated solely on diversity of citizenship—the administrator being a New York resident, the widow and child South Carolina residents, the airline a California corporation with its principal place of business in California—and the substantive basis of the claim was California's Wrongful Death Statute, Cal.Code Civ.Proc. § 377, made applicable by the New York choice-of-law rules, see Baldwin v. Powell, 294 N.Y. 130, 61 N.E.2d 412, which govern this diversity action. Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 58 S.Ct. 817, 82 L.Ed. 1188; Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 61 S.Ct. 1020, 85 L.Ed. 1477. The defendant, by its answer, set up the Statute of Limitations, and subsequently moved for summary judgment on the ground that the action was time-barred. Enforcing the one-year limitations period deemed controlling under Cal.Code Civ.Proc. § 340, brought into operation by New York's 'borrowing statute,' N.Y.Civil Practice Act, § 13, the District Court held that the Statute had run as to the widow, and hence that the child and the administrator were also barred under the California doctrine, announced by California District Courts of Appeals in Sears v. Majors, 104 Cal.App. 60, 285 P. 321, and Haro v. Southern P.R. Co., 17 Cal.App.2d 594, 62 P.2d 441, that where one beneficiary of a wrongful death claim is time-barred, all beneficiaries are time-barred, the cause of action being 'joint.' 173 F.Supp. 114. There was no decision on this precise point by the Supreme Court of California; that court had left Sears and Haro undisturbed. See also Gates v. Wendling Nathan Co., 27 Cal.App.2d 307, 81 P.2d 173; Glavich v. Industrial Accident Commission, 44 Cal.App.2d 517, 112 P 2d 774 (dictum). The District Court's order granting the motion for summary judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. 276 F.2d 280. We granted certiorari. 363 U.S. 836, 80 S.Ct. 1614, 4 L.Ed.2d 1723.

The writ brought here several points decided adversely to petitioners below. We need discuss only one issue, for its determination disposes of the case. The Sears and Haro cases, regarded by the District Court and the Court of Appeals as controlling the effect upon a claim for wrongful death of the running of the Statute of Limitations upon one but not upon another of the decedent's heirs (the latter being under a limitations—tolling disability), were decided in 1930 and 1936,...

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  • Petersen v. City of Vallejo
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • March 4, 1968
    ...of the applicable statute of limitations.'4 See footnotes 1 and 2.5 Cf. Review of California Law in Nolan v. Transocean Air Lines (1961) 365 U.S. 293, 295--296, 81 S.Ct. 555, 5 L.Ed.2d 571 with Nolan v. Transocean Air Lines (2d Cir. 1961) 290 F.2d 904, 906--908; and see J. A. Thompson & Son......
  • People v. Barksdale
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • July 22, 1971
    ...considered comment of the California Supreme Court was elaborated by the United States Supreme Court in Nolan v. Transocean Air Lines, 365 U.S. 293, 295, 81 S.Ct. 555, 557, 5 L.Ed.2d 571. There the court found 'considered [relevant] dictum' in the case of Leeper v. Beltrami, 53 Cal.2d 195, ......
  • Windbourne v. Eastern Air Lines, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York
    • May 11, 1979
    ...denied, 368 U.S. 901, 82 S.Ct. 177, 7 L.Ed.2d 96 (1961), quoting 276 F.2d 280, 281 (2d Cir. 1960), vacated and remanded, 365 U.S. 293, 81 S.Ct. 555, 5 L.Ed.2d 571 (1961), this Court opined that it would have determine what the New York courts would think the Italian, Venezuelan and Syrian c......
  • Rogers v. Grimaldi
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • May 5, 1989
    ...on an issue about which neither had thought." Nolan v. Transocean Air Lines, 276 F.2d 280, 281 (2d Cir.1960), remanded, 365 U.S. 293, 81 S.Ct. 555, 5 L.Ed.2d 571 (1961), adhered to, 290 F.2d 904 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 901, 82 S.Ct. 177, 7 L.Ed.2d 96 (1961); see also Allstate Insu......
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