Does the Predominance of Contacts In Foreign Jurisdiction Mean That the Law of That Forum Is Applicable ?
In Root v. Kaufman, the plaintiff was a resident of New Jersey, and was a passenger in a car owned by a New Jersey resident and operated by another New Jersey resident when an accident occurred in New York. the plaintiff sued the owner and operator of the vehicle in New Jersey state court, and subsequently executed a general release in favor of the owner, operator, and their insurance carrier, settling the New Jersey action.
The release was prepared, executed and delivered in New Jersey.
The defendant in the New York action argued that the release applied to him as well.
Under New Jersey law, the release did not operate as a release of a joint tortfeasor, but under New York law, the release of one tortfeasor without reservation released all joint tortfeasors.
Applying the "grouping of contacts" theory, the court applied New Jersey law, stating that:
In Ardieta v. Young (22 AD2d 349, 256 N.Y.S.2d 199) the court applied the doctrine that the predominance of contacts in the foreign jurisdiction requires that the law of that forum is applicable to the general release. There as here the action was instituted in a foreign jurisdiction through attorneys of that jurisdiction, a settlement was effected there, and releases were prepared, executed and exchanged there.
This action in only distinguishable from that case by the fact that the place where the accident occurred in this action is not the place where the general release was executed as is the situation in Ardieta.
However, this distinction is not sufficient to require the application of the law of this State to that general release, for the reason that the preponderance of contacts between the parties to the New Jersey action was in that State and the laws of that State are applicable thereto (48 Misc 2d at 470;
See also Matter of Price [State Farm Mut. Ins. Co.], 91 AD2d 1084, 458 N.Y.S.2d 315 [3d Dept 1983] [applying the "grouping of contacts" approach to a claim by Florida resident for additional personal injury protection under the insurance policy of New York residents, and finding that because the release, entered into with the employer of the driver of the other vehicle, was executed in Pennsylvania to settle a Pennsylvania action which was brought to recover damages resulting from a Pennsylvania motor vehicle accident, Pennsylvania law determined the effect of the release]).