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Jepson v. General Casualty Co. of Wisconsin

    Brief Fact Summary
    Jepson (Plaintiff), who lived in Minnesota near the North Dakota border and purchased auto insurance through an agent in Minnesota, was injured in an accident in Arizona and then sought to benefit from the law in Minnesota, which permitted stacking of benefits, while North Dakota law did not.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law
    In determining choice of law rules, the following must be considered: predictability of result, maintenance of interstate and international order, simplification of the judicial task, advancement of the forum’s governmental interest, and application of the better rule of law.

    Facts
    Jepson (Plaintiff) was injured while a passenger of a real estate agent’s car in Arizona.  At the time, he lived in Minnesota and had purchased auto insurance through a Minnesota agency, but had paid North Dakota rates, which were lower.  After settling with the driver of the other automobile, Plaintiff sought additional benefits under an insuranc policy his North Dakota business had purchased from General Casualty Co. of Wisconsin (Defendant) and which covered seven vehicles.  The lower courts applied Minnesota law, which permitted stacking of benefits, while North Dakota did not.

    Issue
    In determining choice of law rules, must the following be considered: predictability of result, maintenance of interstate and international order, simplification of the judicial task, advancement of the forum’s governmental interest, and application of the better rule of law?

    Held
    (Page, J.)  Yes.  In determining choice of law rules, the following must be considered: predictability of result, maintenance of interstate and international order, simplification of the judicial task, advancement of the forum’s governmental interest, and application of the better rule of law.  There is evidence Jepson (Plaintiff) was forum shopping in bringing suit in Minnesota after securing no fault benefits payable under North Dakota law.  Unlike the trial court and court of appeal, we find that the maintenance of interstate order weighs heavily in favor of applying North Dakota law.  Because we do not find either stacking or anti-stacking to be a better rule, that was not a consideration that influenced our choice of law.  The law of North Dakota applies to Plaintiff’s stacking claim.  Therefore, deciding how many vehicles may be stacked under the policy is moot.  Reversed.

    Discussion
    The court held that forum law is not always the better rule.  Otherwise, consideration of that factor would be meaningless.  The better rule should be the rule that makes good sense socioeconomically for the time when the court speaks.


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