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Greenfeld v. Megabus USA, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 1, 2017

MOSHE GREENFELD and ZIPORA GREENFELD, Plaintiff,
v.
MEGABUS USA, LLC and ALBERT JACKSON, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Robert Blakey United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Moshe Greenfeld and Zipora Greenfeld (collectively “Plaintiffs”) claim that on December 30, 2014, while traveling down Interstate 90 in Indiana, their car was struck by a bus leased by Megabus USA, LLC (“Megabus”) and operated by former Megabus employee Albert Jackson (“Jackson”) (collectively “Defendants”). [46] at 1-2. Plaintiffs further allege that they received permanent physical injuries from this accident. Id. at 4.

         The parties dispute which state's law governs this diversity action: Illinois (which does not cap punitive damages) or Indiana (which has a punitive damages cap).[1] For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion For Application of Indiana Law [38] is granted.

         I. Background

         The facts relevant to this choice-of-law analysis are largely undisputed. The accident took place in Indiana, the alleged injuries were sustained in Indiana, and the conduct precipitating Plaintiffs' injuries took place in Indiana. [46] at 3.

         Jackson is a resident of Illinois, Plaintiffs are citizens of Canada, and Megabus had, at the time of the accident, its principal place of business in Illinois.[2][38] at 12-13.

         II. Analysis

         Federal courts sitting in diversity apply the choice-of-law rules of the forum state in which they sit. See, e.g., Dobbs v. DePuy Orthopedics, Inc., 842 F.3d 1045, 1048 (7th Cir. 2016); see also Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496-97 (1941). This Court will accordingly apply Illinois choice-of-law principles.

         A. The Most Significant Relationship Test

         Illinois uses the most significant relationship test from the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws to resolve choice-of-law issues. See Suzik v. Sea-Land Corp., 89 F.3d 345, 348 (7th Cir. 1996). Under the Restatement, the Court considers the following factors in personal injury cases: the place where the injury occurred; the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred; the domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the parties; and the place where the relationship, if any, between the parties is centered. See Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 145 (1971).

         Ultimately, “a strong presumption exists that the law of the place of injury” governs personal injury actions. See Townsend v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 879 N.E.2d 893, 905 (Ill. 2007) (emphasis in original). This presumption “may be overcome only by showing a more or greater significant relationship to another state.” Id. at 903 (emphasis in original); see also Spinozzi v. ITT Sheraton Corp., 174 F.3d 842, 844 (7th Cir. 1999) (In “the absence of unusual circumstances, the highest scorer on the ‘most significant relationship' test” is “the place where the tort occurred.”); Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 145 cmt. e (1971) (“When the injury occurred in a single, clearly ascertainable state and when the conduct which caused the injury also occurred there, that state will usually be the state of the applicable law with respect to most issues involving the tort.”).

         B. Indiana Law Governs This Action

         Plaintiffs implicitly concede that they were injured in Indiana, and that the allegedly tortious conduct took place in Indiana. See supra at 1. Plaintiffs nevertheless suggest that this Court should apply Illinois law to this case, pursuant to two cases from this district: Smith v. I-Flow Corp., 753 F.Supp.2d 744 (N.D. Ill. 2010) and Curtis v. TransCor Am., LLC, No. 10-cv-4570, 2012 WL 1080116 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 29, 2012). Neither case, however, is availing here.

         Smith actually reiterates that under Illinois law, the “two most significant contacts in a tort case are the place where the injury occurred and the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred.” Smith, 753 F.Supp.2d at 747-48. The court in Smith was forced to look beyond these traditional factors, however, since the “injury in [that] case occurred in Michigan, ” but the “conduct that caused the injury” took place in California. Id. at 748. Only after identifying this discrepancy did Smith turn to California's ...


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