Boeing supports application of this rule.
The policies behind the equal-share rule are (1) that of encouraging each member of the community to conform to a standard of due care and (2) that of facilitating the determination of each defendant's share of the judgment. The first policy is one in which the District of Columbia and Virginia are interested in the instant case, in that injury and conduct took place in those jurisdictions. As the second policy concerns efficient judicial administration, it is an interest of the District of Columbia, as this is the forum for the majority of the individual actions. The rationale behind a comparative fault rule essentially is to make certain that all defendants are treated fairly. There is no doubt that Washington has an interest in seeing its law applied in that it certainly would be concerned that one of its local corporations, a defendant who is alleged to have done a wrong in Washington, be treated fairly among its co-defendants. Similarly, Florida and Texas would be interested in the fair treatment of their citizens.
Air Florida asserts that Florida, Texas, and Washington have no interest in the apportionment of fault where the injury was "extraterritorial" as to those states. However, as Boeing notes, the primary purpose of a comparative fault apportionment rule is not to punish or deter, but to ensure fair treatment of defendants. As such, with respect to this issue, a state where the conduct or injury took place is not necessarily the state of most significant relationship; rather, it is likely to be a state in which a protected defendant is located.
So it is with the instant case. The jurisdictions most interested in the application of the comparative fault rule are those in which the defendants are located. Moreover, applying this rule will not contravene the purposes of the rules of the other interested jurisdictions, the District of Columbia and Virginia, in that by apportioning responsibility in accordance with fault this rule, like the equal-share rule, serves the purpose of ensuring that parties act in conformance with a standard of due care. Indeed, by making sure that a highly-culpable defendant pays its fair share, rather than a per capita portion, which might be less, the comparative fault rule effectuates this policy even more completely and accurately than the older rule. As to the concern about the jury's ability to allocate fault upon a proportional basis, this Court is not convinced that a jury would be less equipped to entertain this task than it would be to consider other types of speculative matters typically assigned to juries. Finally, and most importantly, while applying the comparative fault rule in the instant case would not contravene the policies of the District of Columbia and Virginia, application of the equal-share rule would most certainly offend the legitimate and profound interests of the defendants' home states. The comparative fault rule will govern the apportionment of liability among the defendants.
D. Punitive Damages
This issue has generated mush interest among numerous parties, who have provided the Court with a plethora of suggestions as to which jurisdiction's law should govern the liability of the various defendants. The PSC argues that, because of the obvious contacts this litigation has with the District of Columbia, that jurisdiction's law, which allows punitive damages in survival actions but not wrongful death actions,
should apply. Alternatively, the PSC argues for the application of Florida law, because Air Florida trained its pilots and received Boeing's warnings and instructions for 737 operators there. Florida permits punitive damage assessments in cases such as this.
Air Florida and American suggest that Virginia law, which would not allow punitive damages in this case,
should control their liability for punitive damages since the allegations as to their conduct relevant to this issue took place in that Commonwealth. Similarly, Boeing argues for Washington State's law to govern; as noted earlier, punitive damages would not be available under this law.
Plaintiffs Fako, Izzo, and Donahue assert that the laws of their decedents' domiciles, which also are their transferor courts' locations (Pennsylvania for Fako; Massachusetts for the others) should apply to those individual actions. Both Commonwealths allow punitive damages claims.
Finally, plaintiff Hamilton, a Maryland plaintiff, argues in favor of Florida punitive damages law. No party argues for the application of Texas law to American, but that state allows punitive damages.
The primary purpose of imposing punitive damage assessments is to punish egregious conduct of a defendant and deter future wrongful conduct by the defendant and others, not to compensate a plaintiff. Consequently, a state whose only connection with this litigation is that it was the domicile of a plaintiff or victim has no interest in the imposition of punitive damage liability. Chicago, 644 F.2d at 612; Jackson v. Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V., 459 F. Supp. 953, 955-56 (S.D.N.Y. 1978) (under California interest analysis, Pennsylvania punitive damages law would not apply to action involving crash of Dutch airliner in Spain, despite plaintiffs' domicile in that Commonwealth, because conduct causing the crash, being a local interest, was the concern of the jurisdiction in which the conduct occurred); Sibley v. KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines, 454 F. Supp. 425, 428-29 (S.D.N.Y. 1978) (under Massachusetts choice of law rules, Massachusetts punitive damage law would not apply to same crash in Jackson despite plaintiffs' domicile in that Commonwealth, for same reason); Hurtado v. Superior Court, 11 Cal. 3d 574, 522 P.2d 666, 114 Cal. Rptr. 106 (1974), W. Reese, Airplane Accidents, supra, at 1313, 1317.
Plaintiff Fako asserts that under the choice of law rules of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which this Court must follow inasmuch as her action was transferred here from a federal court located there, Pennsylvania is the state most interested in the assessment of punitive damages. The cases cited by plaintiff Fako do not convince the Court that a Pennsylvania court would depart from the settled rule and impose its punitive damages law in a case involving an extraterritorial tort. In Griffith v. United Air Lines, Inc., 416 Pa. 1, 203 A.2d 796 (1964), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court discarded the lex loci delicti rule in favor of a modern interest analysis approach, and ruled that the law of Pennsylvania (the decedent's domicile) should govern instead of that of Colorado (the lex loci delicti). However, the argument in Griffith concerned not the issue of the availability of punitive damages, but rather the amount of compensatory damages. Colorado law then imposed a limit on damage recoveries. In refusing to apply the Colorado limit, the Pennsylvania court noted that
Pennsylvania's interest in the amount of recovery, on the other hand, is great . . . . Our commonwealth, the domicile of decedent and his family, is vitally concerned with the administration of decedent's estate and the well-being of the surviving dependents to the extent of granting full recovery, including expected earnings.
203 A.2d at 807. The court then cited a Pennsylvania constitutional provision guaranteeing "reasonable compensation for injuries to employees arising in the course of their employment." Id., citing the relevant provision of the Pennsylvania Constitution. As such, the Pennsylvania court's decision concerned that Commonwealth's legitimate and substantial interest in ensuring adequate compensation for its citizens. Nowhere in that opinion did the Pennsylvania court suggest that Pennsylvania had any interest in the assessment of punitive damages. Similarly, the case of Kuchinic v. McCrory, 422 Pa. 620, 222 A.2d 897 (1966), also cited by plaintiff Fako, did not involve the issue of punitive damages but the question of whether Pennsylvania's simple negligence standard or Georgia's gross negligence rule should serve as the applicable standard of care. 222 A.2d at 899. Finally, the Third Circuit's opinion in Scott v. Eastern Airlines, Inc., 399 F.2d 14 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 979, 89 S. Ct. 446, 21 L. Ed. 2d 469 (1968), the third case cited by plaintiff Fako, similarly concerned Pennsylvania's interest in compensatory, rather than punitive, damages. 399 F.2d at 23. Accordingly, the Court is reassured that the conclusion reached by the court in Jackson v. KLM under the California choice of law rules applies here as well, i.e., that under the interest analysis"most significant relationship" rule of Pennsylvania, that jurisdiction would not be interested in the imposition of punitive damages in a case involving an out-of-state air crash.
The Izzo and Donahue plaintiffs argue that a court in Massachusetts, from which their actions were transferred, would be guided by that Commonwealth's "most significant relationship" test to apply its rule allowing punitive damages. These plaintiffs cite Massachusetts' law governing punitive damages, which provides for a mandatory, minimum $5,000 assessment of punitive damages where a defendant is found to have acted maliciously, willfully, wantonly or recklessly, or to have been grossly negligent. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 229, § 2 (Michie/Law. Co-op. Cum. Supp. 1982). In support of their position, plaintiffs Izzo and Donahue quote the following portion of Schulhof v. Northeast Cellulose, Inc., 545 F. Supp. 1200, 1206 (D. Mass. 1982):
Massachusetts has a strong interest in applying its punitive damage provision . . . . Its punitive damage provision represents a legislative decision that ordinary tort damages do not sufficiently deter "willful, wanton or reckless" acts causing death.