Brief Fact Summary
Mrs. Mertz (Plaintiff) sued Mr. Mertz (Defendant) in New York for injuries allegedly caused by his negligence in a car accident that occurred in Connecticut.Â Connecticut law permitted suits between spouses.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The public policy necessary to deny enforcement of a sister state’s statute must be found in the forum’s constitution, statutes, or judicial records and not only in the forum court’s own notion of expediency and justice.
Mrs. Mertz (Plaintiff) was riding as a passenger in a car driven by her husband when she was injured in Connecticut.Â She sued Mr. Mertz (Defendant) claiming his negligence in New York, where they resided.Â New York had a statute which prohibited a suit by one spouse against the other to recover damages for personal injury.Â Connecticut did not have such a statute or policy.
May â€œpublic policyâ€ be used as a basis for denying enforcement of a sister state’s statute, where such â€œpublic policy’ is not enunciated in the forum’s constitution, statutes or judicial records?
(Lehman, J.)Â No.Â â€œPublic policyâ€ may not be used as a basis for denying enforcement of a sister state’s statute, where such â€œpublic policy’ is not enunciated in the forum’s constitution, statutes or judicial records.Â While the term â€œpublic policyâ€ is ill defined when used in the context of denying enforcement of a sister state’s statute, it does include some meaningful definition.Â â€œPublic policyâ€ is properly used when represented by the forum’s constitution, statutes, or judicial records.Â It cannot only mean the forum court’s own notion of expediency or justice.Â While Connecticut has abandoned the common law concept of one spouse’s incapacity to sue the other for personal injury, New York has not.Â The law of the forum will determine the jurisdiction of the courts, the capacity of the parties to sue or be sued, and the remedies and procedures to be invoked.Â New York’s public policy is to incapacitate one spouse from suing the other without regard for the underlying merit of the cause of action.Â Connecticut cannot impose on New York its own policy to the contrary.Â Affirmed.
(Crouch, J.)Â It is not enough to say that the public policy of a state can be found in its statutes and judicial records.Â When the forum is confronted with a sister state statute which is different than its own, before â€œpublic policyâ€ can be invoked to deny enforcement of the other state’s statute, the basic underlying rationale for the existence of the statute must be examined.Â Where the underlying rationale does not represent good reason, the forum’s â€œpublic policyâ€ is not strong enough to override a valid statute of a sister state.
The majority opinion would seem to be somewhat at odds with the view expressed by Judge Cardozo in the Loucks case, 120 N.E. 198 (1918).Â Cardozo found that dissimilar statutes pointed toward the same objective were not a conflict of policy.Â The majority opinion in this case, under its own definition, would find a conflict of policy only where conflicts between the statutes existed.