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McCloud v. Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America

July 30, 2007

TRISH LEE MCCLOUD, ET AL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GOODYEAR DUNLOP TIRES NORTH AMERICA, LTD., ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDade United States District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for a Choice of Law Determination [Doc. 217] and accompanying Memorandum [Doc. 218] filed on June 13, 2007. Defendants request an Order holding that Michigan law governs this case. Plaintiff, Trish McCloud, filed a Brief in Response [Doc. 224] on June 25, 2007. At the final pretrial conference this Court ordered expedited briefing on this issue and Granted Defendants leave to file a Reply Brief. Defendants filed their Reply Brief [Doc. 229] on July 2, 2007. For the following reasons, this Court holds that Illinois Law governs this case and Defendants Motion [Doc. 217] is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises out of a motorcycle accident that occurred on Interstate 55 in Livingston County, Illinois. Plaintiff, Trish McCloud was riding on the back of a motorcycle driven by Plaintiff, William Booker.*fn1 Together they were returning to Baldwin, Michigan from a "blessing of the bikes" event in East Saint Louis, Illinois. (Doc. 224 at 8.)

The motorcycle they were riding on was a 1985 Honda Goldwing with tires that were manufactured by Goodyear Dunlop Tires of North America, Ltd. ("Dunlop"). While traveling Northbound on Interstate 55, the rear tire of the motorcycle "suddenly and catastrophically deflated." (Doc. 218 at 1.) As a result of the accident, McCloud was permanently and severely disabled.

Plaintiff alleges that the accident was caused by a defectively manufactured rear tire. Defendants, on the other hand, argue that the reason for the blowout was that the tire had been run overloaded and underinflated for a long period of time.

On June 13, 2007, Defendants filed the Motion currently before the Court in which they allege that Michigan law should apply to the facts of this case. Plaintiff, in Response, argues that Illinois law should apply. To that end, there are several additional facts which are integral to the matter at bar.

Defendants emphasize the following; Booker purchased the tire and that it was installed at a store in Michigan; At the time of the accident, both Booker and McCloud were residents of Michigan (Doc. 218 at 4-5.); And, according to Defendants, "the evidence shows that Booker used the motorcycle with the subject tire for two years, primarily in Michigan...." (Doc. 218 at 2.) However, Defendants do not provide any evidence which would support their assertion that the motorcycle was primarily used in Michigan.

Plaintiff, on the other hand, reiterates that the accident occurred in Illinois and that she and Booker were traveling back from East Saint Louis, Illinois. In addition, McCloud states that St. Francis Medical Center, an Illinois non-profit corporation, has a lien for $261,902.32 against any recovery she might have in this action. (Doc. 224 at 8.) And finally, Plaintiff points to evidence that shows that the subject tire was primarily used in Illinois. Specifically, Plaintiff points to Booker's deposition testimony in which Booker discusses the additional trips that he made on the subject tire. From there, McCloud puts together several computations from which she concludes that 32 percent of the miles accumulated on the subject tire were accumulated in Illinois, 26 percent were in Michigan, 19 percent were in Indiana, 8 percent were in Ohio, 6 percent were in Kentucky, 5 percent were in Tennessee, and 4 percent were in Alabama. Defendants do not raise any facts challenging this computational analysis in their Reply Brief (Doc. 229). As a result, this Court concludes that more miles were placed on the subject tire in Illinois than in any other state.

II. ANALYSIS

Federal courts apply the choice of law rules of the state where the matter was originally filed. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487 (1941). The case at bar was filed in the Central District of Illinois, so Illinois' choice of law rules apply.

Illinois follows the "most significant relationship" approach. Ingersoll v. Klein, 262 N.E.2d 593, 596 (Ill. 1970). This approach is laid out in the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Law § 145. Under this approach there is a presumption that the law of the state where the injury occurred should govern. Ingersoll, 262 N.E.2d at 595. That presumption can be overcome if there is another state that has a more significant relationship to the occurrence or the parties. To determine which state has a more significant relationship, our Appellate Court has paraphrased the two relevant sets of criteria as follows:

"The first set of criteria includes general factors such as the needs of the interstate system; relevant policies of the forum and other interested states; protection of justified expectations; the basic policies underlying the particular field of law; certainty, predictability and uniformity of result; and ease in the determination and application of the law to be applied. The second set of criteria includes the contacts to be taken into account in applying these principles. These contacts are: (1) the place of the injury; (2) the place of misconduct; (3) the domicile, residence, ...


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