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Mikovich v. Saari

    Brief Fact Summary
    Milkovich (Plaintiff), a resident of Canada, was injured in Saari’s (Defendant) automobile, when it crashed in Minnesota, a state with no guest statute.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law
    To determine choice of law, a court should consider (1) predictability of results; (2) maintenance of interstate and international order; (3) simplification of a judicial task; (4) advancement of the forum’s governmental interests; and (5) application of the better rule of law.

    Facts
    Milkovich (Plaintiff), a resident of Ontario, Canada, was a guest in the auto of Saari (Defendant), also an Ontario resident, to shop and attend a play in Duluth.  Defendant registered, garaged, and insured her car in Ontario, which has a guest statute.  Plaintiff was injured when Defendant’s car crashed in Minnesota, which did not have a guest statute.  Plaintiff was hospitalized in Duluth for six weeks.  She brought suit in Minnesota (as the Ontario guest statute required the guest to show gross negligence).  The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss, and she appealed.

    Issue
    To determine choice of law, should a court consider (1) predictability of results; (2) maintenance of interstate and international order; (3) simplification of a judicial task; (4) advancement of the forum’s governmental interests; and (5) application of the better rule of law?

    Held
    (Todd, J.)  Yes.  To determine choice of law, a court should consider (1) predictability of results; (2) maintenance of interstate and international order; (3) simplification of a judicial task; (4) advancement of the forum’s governmental interests; and (5) application of the better rule of law.  The rule of applying the law of the place of injury is out of date.  Instead, a rule that looks to reason and justice should be adopted.  In this case, predictability of results is not relevant to torts cases, but is more applicable to contracts cases generally, where individuals agree to look to certain law.  Simplification of the judicial task is of little concern as either law could be applied without difficulty in this case.  With regards to interstate and international relations, here the forum state has a substantial connection with the facts and issues by being the place where injury and hospitalization occurred.  Advancements of the forum’s governmental interests and application of the better rule of law are compelling.  “While there may be more deterrent effect in our common-law rule of liability as opposed to the guest statute requirement of gross negligence, the main governmental interest involved is that of any ‘justice-administering state.’â€Â  The forum should not apply law inconsistent with its own concept of fairness and equity.  With regard to the better rule of law, Minnesota’s lack of a guest statute is the better approach.  Guest statutes have lost favor as the collusive suits which they were designed to prevent can be easily uncovered.  The motion was properly denied.

    Dissent
    (Peterson, J.)  The Canadian parties have concurred in the law of their province and, for them, American law should not be the better law.  The approach used by the majority “is really little more than a mechanical application of the law of the forum.â€

    Discussion
    The rule of this case adopts the choice of law rule put forth by Professor Robert Leflar.  This case has received criticism.  Putting aside the tendency of courts to argue that their own law is the better law, this case seems to cast aside a strong interest that the province of Ontario would have had in the action.  The car trip began and was to end in Ontario, the parties were residents of Ontario, and it appeared that Milkovich (Plaintiff) was forum shopping as her original suit was filed in Ontario first.  Also, Saari’s (Defendant) Canadian insurer’s expectations were based on Ontario law.  Regarding the better law problem, Professor Leflar admits that judges usually apply the law of the forum, but that they should be mature about the problem and make an impartial choice.


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