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EDMUNDS v. EDMUNDS

October 4, 1972

Leonia T. EDMUNDS, Plaintiff,
v.
James A. EDMUNDS and Donzell M. Tate, Defendants


Bryant, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRYANT

Bryant, District Judge.

 This case involves an automobile accident which occurred in New York on August 10, 1968, in which the plaintiff was injured while riding in a vehicle driven by her husband, defendant James A. Edmunds, and owned by defendant Donzell M. Tate. All the parties are residents of the District of Columbia. The accident occurred when the vehicle left the roadway and struck an embankment or pole. Before the court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss on the ground that the law of the forum constitutes a bar to the suit as to both defendants.

 Specifically, it is asserted that plaintiff's action is barred by the District of Columbia's three-year statute of limitations in tort actions, and also by its doctrine of interspousal immunity.

 Defendants' claim insofar as the statute of limitations is concerned appears insubstantial. The events out of which the cause of action arises occurred on August 10, 1968. Suit was filed on August 10, 1971. The authorities sustain plaintiff's claim that her action was commenced within the statutory period, since the day on which the cause of action occurred is not included in the computation of time. Freeman v. Pew, 61 App. D.C. 223, 59 F.2d 1037 (1932). Thus, the complaint will not be dismissed on this account.

 The contention regarding the immunity doctrine which precludes tort suits between spouses presents a problem more complex. In the first place we have a conflict of laws aspect which must be resolved. The doctrine of interspousal immunity prevails in the District of Columbia, Thompson v. Thompson, 218 U.S. 611, 31 S. Ct. 111, 54 L. Ed. 1180 (1910); Mountjoy v. Mountjoy, D.C. App., 206 A. 2d 733 (1965), leave to appeal denied 121 U.S. App. D.C. 27, 347 F.2d 811 (1965); Jones v. Pledger, 124 U.S. App. D.C. 254, 363 F.2d 986 (1966); but is nonexistent in New York, the injury site. N.Y. General Obligations Law, § 3-313 (McKinney 1964), McKinney's Consol. Laws, c. 24-A. Naturally, plaintiff would have us apply the New York law.

 For many years the conflict of laws rule applied to cases like the one here was lex loci delictus -- the law of the place of injury governed the substantive rights of the parties. However, the New York Court of Appeals in the case of Babcock v. Jackson, 12 N.Y. 2d 473, 240 N.Y.S. 2d 743, 191 N.E. 2d 279 (1963), repudiated the rule of lex loci delictus and adopted a rule which examined the interests and contacts of the various jurisdictions involved and applied the law of the jurisdiction having the most significant interests and contacts.

 The rule announced by the New York Court of Appeals in Babcock has been incorporated in a draft of the Restatement (Second) Conflict of Laws and adopted in numerous jurisdictions, *fn1" including the District of Columbia. *fn2" The court must determine which jurisdiction, the District of Columbia or New York, has the most significant relationship with the occurrence and the parties. The Restatement in § 145 lists four contacts to be considered in determining the applicable law:

 
(a) the place where the injury occurred,
 
(b) the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred,
 
(c) the domicile, 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.

 In the present case, New York is the site of both the injury and the conduct which caused it, and the District of Columbia is the place of the parties' domicile and the center of the relationship.

 As noted in the comment to § 145, the jurisdiction which is the situs of the injury has a primary interest in regulating conduct within its borders, and New York could be said to have a strong interest if the issue now before the court was one of whether the conduct in this case constituted negligence. However, that is not the issue; rather, ...


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