United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
LORETTA C. BIGGS, District Judge.
originally filed this diversity action, on November 13, 2014,
in the United States District Court for the Eastern District
of Texas, alleging claims for negligence and product
liability against Defendants. (ECF No. 1.) Defendants then
filed a motion to transfer the action to the Northern
District of Texas, the location of their headquarters. (ECF
No. 14 at 6.) The District Court for the Eastern District of
Texas denied Defendants' motion and sua sponte
entered an order transferring the case to this Court. (ECF
No. 30.) Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Apply
North Carolina Law. (ECF No. 97.) For the reasons that
follow, the Court concludes that Texas law should apply.
are corporations organized under the laws of Delaware with
their principal place of business in Dallas, Texas. (ECF No.
89 ¶¶ 2-3.) They are in the business of
manufacturing and selling various highway safety and
construction products across the United States. (Id.
¶ 12.) On the morning of November 29, 2013, Plaintiff, a
resident of Greensboro, North Carolina, was driving to work
on Interstate 40 when she fell asleep and collided with a
“guardrail end terminal fitted on the blunt end of a
line of guardrail.” (Id. ¶¶ 1, 7.)
Plaintiff contends Defendants “designed, manufactured
and marketed” the “impact head” of the
guardrail and that “[a]t the time of the accident, the
guardrail and impact head in question was defective and
unreasonably dangerous.” (Id. ¶¶ 8,
transfer of the action to this Court, Defendants raised for
the first time that North Carolina law applied and that North
Carolina's contributory negligence defense barred
Plaintiff's claims. (See ECF No. 40 ¶¶
4-5; ECF No. 41 at 6.) Plaintiff then moved to amend her
Complaint. (ECF No. 68.) On August 31, 2016, the Court
granted in part and denied in part Plaintiff's motion to
amend, and Plaintiff filed her First Amended Complaint
asserting the following claims: (1) negligence/product
liability; (2) strict liability/product liability; and (3)
gross negligence, intentional, willful, wanton
conduct/punitive damages. (ECF No. 89 at 10-13.) Defendants
now move for a determination of whether Texas or North
Carolina law applies to this action.
TEXAS CHOICE-OF-LAW PRINCIPLES
a federal district court sitting in diversity jurisdiction
must apply the choice-of-law rules of the forum state in
which it sits. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co.,
313 U.S. 487, 496-97 (1941). The parties agree that, because
this case was originally filed in the Eastern District of
Texas and was transferred to this Court, Texas choice-of-law
principles must be applied to determine whether North
Carolina or Texas law governs this action. (ECF No. 98 at 7;
ECF No. 99 at 3.) Which state law should govern an issue
“is a question of law for the court to decide”;
however, “the state contacts to be considered by the
court in making this legal determination involves a factual
inquiry.” Hughes Wood Prods., Inc. v. Wagner,
18 S.W.3d 202, 204 (Tex. 2000). Under Texas choice-of-law
principles, the party urging application of another
state's substantive law bears the burden of providing
sufficient information to establish that the law of another
state applies. Janvey v. Suarez, 978 F.Supp.2d 685,
692 (N.D. Tex. 2013). Thus, Defendants bear the burden of
presented with a choice-of-law question, Texas courts first
determine whether there is an actual conflict between the
laws of the applicable jurisdictions. See Duncan v.
Cessna Aircraft Co., 665 S.W.2d 414, 419 (Tex. 1984). If
no conflict exists, then a choice-of-law analysis is
unnecessary. Schneider Nat'l Transp. v. Ford Motor
Co., 280 F.3d 532, 536 (5th Cir. 2002). Here, the
parties agree that the laws of Texas and North Carolina are
in conflict with respect to each of Plaintiff's claims.
(ECF No. 98 at 7; ECF No. 99 at 3-4.) The Court must,
therefore, conduct a choice-of-law analysis to determine
which state law governs.
THE RESTATEMENT'S MOST-SIGNIFICANT-RELATIONSHIP
follows the most-significant-relationship test, set out in
§§ 6 and 145 of the Restatement (Second) of
Conflict of Laws (1971) (“Restatement”), to
resolve choice-of-law issues. Gutierrez v. Collins,
583 S.W.2d 312, 318 (Tex. 1979). Under this test, the court
must first determine which state law has the most significant
relationship to each issue involved in the action.
Hughes, 18 S.W.3d at 205. Section 6 of the
Restatement outlines the basic policy considerations to be
used to decide a choice-of-law question in any given case and
directs the Court to consider the following factors:
(a) the needs of the interstate and international systems,
(b) the relevant policies of the forum,
(c) the relevant policies of other interested states and the
relative interests of those states in the determination of
the particular issue,
(d) the protection of justified expectations,
(e) the basic policies underlying the particular field of
(f) certainty, predictability and uniformity of result, and
(g) ease in the determination and application of the law to
§ 6(2); Gutierrez, 583 S.W.2d at 318-19.
Section 145 is the more specific rule, which sets out the
factual contacts to be considered when applying the § 6
policy factors. See Gutierrez, 583 S.W.2d at 318-19.
Section 145 provides that “[t]he rights and liabilities
of the parties with respect to an issue in tort are
determined by the local law of the state which, with respect
to that issue, has the most significant relationship to the
occurrence and the parties under the principles stated in
§ 6.” Restatement § 145(1). Thus, the Court
must analyze how the following factual contacts outlined in
§ 145 impact the policy factors contained in § 6.
See Hughes, 18 S.W.3d at 205. Section 145 factual
contacts include the following:
(a) the place where the injury occurred,
(b) the place where the conduct causing the injured occurred,
(c) the domicil, residence, nationality, place of
incorporation and place of business of the parties, and
(d) the place where the relationship, if any, between the
parties is centered.
§ 145(2). The Restatement further advises that
“[t]hese contacts are to be evaluated according to
their relative importance with respect to the particular
issue.” Id. The number of contacts with a
state is not determinative; rather the contacts are to be
evaluated by their qualitative character using the policy
factors outlined in § 6. See Torrington Co. v.
Stutzman, 46 S.W.3d 829, 848 (Tex. 2000). Because §
145 sets out the factual contacts specific to this case that
must be used when applying § 6's general policy
principles, the Court will begin its discussion with the
§ 145 contacts.
Section 145 Factual Contacts
Place Where ...