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Schultz v. Boy Scouts of America, Inc.

    Brief Fact Summary.
    In an action among parties domiciled in New Jersey, the trial court applied New Jersey charitable immunity law to tortious conduct in New York.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.
    The lex loci delicti rule will not apply when all parties are domiciled in the same foreign state.

    Facts
    All parties were domiciled in New Jersey.  Schultz’s (Plaintiff) sons were allegedly molested in New York by a scoutmaster affiliated with the Boy Scouts (Defendant), which led to the suicide of one son.  New Jersey had a charitable immunity statute; New York did not.  The case was summarily adjudicated under New Jersey law.  Schultz (Plaintiff) appealed.

    Issue
    Should the lex loci delicti rule apply when all parties are domiciled in the same foreign state?

    Held
    (Simons, J.)  No.  The lex loci delicti rule will not apply when all parties are domiciled in the same foreign state.  Lex loci delicti usually predominates if the issue in conflict is conduct-regulating.  This case presents a loss-allocating conflict, and analysis favors applying the law of the common domicile.  This approach promotes certainty and reduces forum-shopping; it protects the parties’ expectations on applicable law.  This case does not implicate New York public policy because no significant contacts exist among the parties, the tort, and this forum.  Affirmed.

    Dissent
    Jasen, J.)  Boy Scouts (Defendant) has changed domiciles, and there is little interest in shielding them under New Jersey immunity laws.  By contrast, New York has a vital interest in preventing the sexual abuse of children.  This case rests almost exclusively on the Schultzes’ (Plaintiff) domicile, so visiting nonresidents are less protected by our laws.  But the parties were not in transit through New York; their stay provided them the protections and obligations of New York.  Indeed, it would be surprising to know that one’s conduct while in New York was not governed by state laws.  Lex loci should not be indiscriminately disregarded.

    Discussion
    Contrary to the dissent’s position, a post-tort change of residence is not relevant for conflicts analysis.  Generally, the parties’ domiciles at the time of injury control.  This case shows that courts rarely refuse to apply foreign law based on public policy grounds.  “The courts are not free to refuse to enforce a foreign right at the pleasure of the judges.â€Â  Loucks v. Standard Oil, 224 N.Y. 99, 120 N.E. 198 (1918).


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