support the same result under New York's governmental interest
test. This is particularly appropriate for defendant American
since its principal place of business is New York. As to
defendant MDC, although New York does not allow punitive damages
in wrongful death actions, New York, like California, has no
interest in protecting a nonresident from financial burdens which
would be imposed by the state of residence. Therefore, the law of
New York applies to defendant American, and the law of Missouri
to defendant MDC in actions filed in New York.
ACTIONS FILED IN MICHIGAN
Michigan, like California, has abandoned the traditional lex
loci delicti approach to conflicts questions in favor of the
"interests analysis" approach. Sweeney v. Sweeney, 402 Mich. 234,
262 N.W.2d 625, 628 (1978); Storie v. Southfield Leasing, Inc.,
90 Mich. App. 612, 282 N.W.2d 417, 419 (1979); Branyan v. Alpena
Flying Service, 65 Mich. App. 1, 236 N.W.2d 739, 742 (1976).
Application of Missouri and New York law would not frustrate a
well-established state policy of Michigan since Michigan has
never found punitive damages proper in a wrongful death action.
Currie v. Fitting, 375 Mich. 440, 134 N.W.2d 611 (1965).
For the reasons stated with regard to the California, Illinois,
and New York actions, therefore, we will apply the law of
Missouri as to MDC and New York as to American in actions filed
in Michigan. Therefore, the motion to strike will be denied as to
defendant MDC and granted as to defendant American.
ACTIONS FILED IN PUERTO RICO AND HAWAII
Puerto Rico applies the traditional lex loci delicti test to
tort actions. Jimenez Puig v. Avis Rent-A-Car System, 574 F.2d 37
(1st Cir. 1978); DeVane v. United States, 259 F. Supp. 18, 20
(D.P.R. 1966). As stated earlier, the law of the place of injury
in this case, Illinois, does not permit punitive damages in
wrongful death actions. Denying punitive damages here does not
frustrate the public policy of Puerto Rico, since Puerto Rico
does not allow punitive damages in tort actions. Ganapolsky v.
Park Gardens Development Corp., 439 F.2d 844, 846 (1st Cir.
1971); Cooperative de Seguros Multiples de Puerto Rico v. San
Juan, 289 F. Supp. 858, 859-60 (D.D.P.R. 1968).
As for actions originally filed in Hawaii, neither plaintiffs
nor defendants have discussed the conflicts rules of Hawaii and
we have been unable to determine from our research how Hawaii
would approach a conflicts question of this sort. Nevertheless,
as to defendant American, under any of the conflicts rules
previously discussed, interest analysis (California),
governmental interest (New York), or most significant
relationship (Illinois), the law of New York applies and punitive
damages are not available. Under the traditional lex loci delicti
test, Illinois law applies, and punitive damages also are not
available. Therefore, all pending claims for punitive damages
against defendant American will be stricken in actions filed in
As previously stated, under some conflicts rules, defendant MDC
can be held responsible for punitive-type damages. Therefore, the
motion to strike as to defendant MDC will be denied.
Several plaintiffs argue that preclusion of punitive damages in
wrongful death actions, where they are permitted in personal
injury actions, is a violation of the equal protection clause of
the federal and Illinois, Michigan, and California constitutions.
In addition, some plaintiffs argue that this differentiation
constitutes "special legislation" in violation of Art. 4, § 13 of
the Illinois state constitution. Ill.Const. Art. 4, § 13 (1970).
Defendants obviously take the opposite view.
We conclude that a denial of punitive damages in wrongful death
actions does not violate the equal protection clause of the
United States Constitution. Huff v. White Motor Corp.,
609 F.2d 286 (7th Cir.
1979); Johnson v. International Harvester Corp., 487 F. Supp. 1176
(D.N.D. 1980); In Re Paris Air Crash Disaster, 427 F. Supp. 701
(C.D. 1977). Limitations on damages in wrongful death actions,
where they are not limited to personal injury actions, have been
held constitutional by the majority of courts to consider the
question. Cyr v. B. Offen & Co., 501 F.2d 1145 (1st Cir. 1974);
Mitseff v. Acme Steel Co., 208 F. Supp. 805 (N.D.Ill. 1962); Glick
v. Ballentine Produce, Inc., supra, appeal dis'd 385 U.S. 5
(1966); Butler v. Chicago Transit Authority, 38 Ill.2d 361,
231 N.E.2d 429 (1967).
Denial of punitive damages in wrongful death actions is not "so
unrelated to the achievement of any combination of legislative
purposes that . . . [the court] can only conclude that the
legislature's actions were irrational." Parham v. Hughes,
441 U.S. 347, 352, 99 S.Ct. 1742, 1746, 60 L.Ed.2d 269 (1979). The
state has a legitimate interest in the amount and distribution of
damages to survivors of persons wrongfully killed. A state may
determine that its interest in maintaining accurate and efficient
disposition of property at death is best served by limiting
damages in these actions to exclude punitive damages. See Parham
at 357, 99 S.Ct. at 1748. Also, the state may believe that any
punishment for wrongful conduct, beyond compensation for those
injured or killed, is best handled through state of federal
For these reasons, we find that a denial of punitive damages in
wrongful death actions does not violate the equal protection
clause of the United States Constitution.
The constitutionality under state constitutions of denying
punitive damages in wrongful death actions must be addressed
since if it is unconstitutional, it might impact on the analysis
of the conflicts rules of these jurisdictions.
The equal protection clauses of the Michigan and Illinois
constitutions are coextensive with that of the federal
constitution. See Friedman & Rochester, Ltd. v. Walsh, 67 Ill.2d 413,
10 Ill.Dec. 559, 367 N.E.2d 1325 (1977); Commissioners of
Highways of Town of Annawan v. U.S., 466 F. Supp. 745, 769
(N.D.Ill. 1979); Moore v. Spangler, 401 Mich. 360, 258 N.W.2d 34
(1977). For the reasons stated with respect to the federal
constitution, therefore, the unavailability of punitive damages
in these actions does not violate the Illinois or Michigan
The California equal protection clause, while fundamentally
equivalent to that of the federal constitution, requires "some
rationality" in the nature of the class singled out." Brown v.
Merlo, 8 Cal.3d 855, 106 Cal.Rptr. 388, 506 P.2d 212 (1973);
Serrano v. Priest, 18 Cal.3d 728, 135 Cal.Rptr. 345, 557 P.2d 929
(1976). There obviously is a rational distinction between the
damages of persons injured in accidents who survive and
descendants or heirs of persons killed in accidents. There is no
substantial difference between not allowing damages for pain and
suffering or nature and extent of the injuries in death actions
and not allowing punitive damages. The decisions of the courts
and legislatures to preclude recovery of punitive damages in
wrongful death actions fulfills this requirement. See contra In
Re Paris Air Crash, supra.
Finally, the special legislation clause of the Illinois
constitution must be considered. Art. 4, section 13 of the
Illinois constitution provides: "The General Assembly shall pass
no special or local law when a general law is or can be made
applicable. . . ." Plaintiffs argue that the judicial
construction of the wrongful death statute to preclude punitive
damages is a special law violative of this provision since the
common-law right to punitive damages can be made applicable to
wrongful death actions.
This contention ignores the fact that other statutes in
Illinois expressly providing that punitive damages may not be
recovered have been upheld against challenges that they
constitute "special legislation". Smith v. Hill, 12 Ill.2d 588,
147 N.E.2d 321 (1958) (upholding ban on punitive damages in
breach of marriage promise actions); Siegall v. Solomon,
19 Ill.2d 145, 166 N.E.2d 5 (upholding ban on punitive damages in
alienation of affections action).
Further, the "special legislation" prohibition only requires that
the law operate alike in all places and upon all persons in like
circumstances within the state. Adams v. Continental Cas. Co.,
21 Ill. App.3d 111, 314 N.E.2d 495 (1974); Rincon v. License Appeal
Commission of City of Chicago, 62 Ill.App.3d 600, 19 Ill.Dec.
406, 378 N.E.2d 1281 (1978); Friedman & Rochester, Ltd. v. Walsh,
The inconsistency of finding punitive damages available against
one defendant and not the other is compelled by differences in
the various states' conflict of law and punitive damages rules
and reflects the problems inherent in the application of state
law to activities of national scope, such as those of the airline
industry. Airlines and airplane manufacturers are subject to
uniform federal regulation in almost every aspect of their
operations, except their tort liability.
As recently as 1978, a bill was introduced in Congress to
establish a federal cause of action for injuries suffered through
aviation activity. See H.R. 10917, 124 Cong.Rec. No. 17 (February
14, 1978). If this bill, or any of its predecessors had passed,
those actions would all be governed by federal law, uniform as to
liability and damages, rather than by the varying laws of a
number of states. See Note, 28 Vand.L.Rev. 621, 625 (1975). It is
time that this important area of federal concern be addressed by
the Congress to prevent substantial and incongruous variations in
liability and damages determinations based on identical conduct
solely because of differences in state conflicts of law
principles and underlying tort law. It is clearly in the
interests of passengers, the airlines, and the airplane
manufacturers, as well as the state and federal governments, that
this national activity be governed by uniform principles of
One final observation is appropriate. Notwithstanding all of
the foregoing, it remains to be determined whether or not the
evidence as to the conduct of MDC will warrant the submission of
any issue of punitive damages to the jury. That question
obviously cannot be answered until a trial on the issue of
For the reasons stated, the motion of defendant McDonnell
Douglas Corporation to strike all pending claims for punitive
damages in the wrongful death actions before the court will be
denied as to all actions, except those originally filed in Puerto
Rico. The motion of defendant American Airlines to strike all
pending claims for punitive damages in the wrongful death actions
before the court will be granted as to all actions.
Because the availability of punitive damages against either
defendant may control and effect the scope of discovery of this
action, and in the opinion of the court, an immediate appeal from
this order will materially advance the ultimate termination of
this litigation, this matter will be certified pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) for immediate appeal.
An appropriate order will enter.