Babcock v. Jackson – Case Brief Summary (New York)

In Babcock v. Jackson, 12 NY2d 473, 191 N.E.2d 279, 240 N.Y.S.2d 743 (1963), the Court was asked to determine whether the law of the place of the tort occurs "invariably" governs the tort claim, or whether other factors should be considered. Id. at 477-78.

There, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries as a result of an automobile accident in Ontario, Canada, and sued the driver of her vehicle for negligence. Id. at 476-77.

The trial court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss on the grounds that Ontario's guest-statute barred a passenger from suing the driver of the vehicle for any injuries suffered and the Appellate Division affirmed. Id.

In reversing the Appellate Division, the Court of Appeals first noted that the parties were New York residents and their relationship, as guest and host, started and would end in New York, and that the vehicle was registered and insured in New York. Id. at 482.

In light of those facts, the Court found that Ontario's interest in the matter was "minimal" since its "sole relationship with the occurrence was the purely adventitious circumstance that the accident occurred there." Id. at 482.

Since the "rights and liabilities of the parties which stem from their guest-host relationship should remain constant and not vary and shift as the automobile proceeds from place to place," the Court held that New York law should apply. Id. at 483.

In conclusion, the Babcock Court noted that "there is no reason why all issues arising out of a tort claim must be resolved by reference to the law of the same jurisdiction." Id. at 484.