PETERS, C. J.
The sole issue on this appeal is whether, under the circumstances of this case, an injured person may pursue a cause of action under Connecticut law to recover for allegedly tortious conduct that occurred in a jurisdiction where such a cause of action would not be permitted. The plaintiff, Roseann O'Connor, brought an action against the defendant, Brian O'Connor, seeking damages for injuries that she suffered as a result of an automobile accident in Quebec.
The relevant facts are undisputed. The plaintiff was injured as a result of a one car automobile accident that occurred on September 3, 1981, in the province of Quebec, Canada. At the time of the accident, the defendant was operating the automobile and the plaintiff was his sole passenger. The parties, both of whom were Connecticut domiciliaries, were on a one day pleasure trip that began, and was intended to end, in Vermont. The plaintiff underwent hospital treatment for her injuries in Quebec and has suffered continuing physical disabilities while residing in Connecticut.
The plaintiff brought an action against the defendant on August 17, 1983, alleging that she had suffered serious and permanent injuries as a result of the defendant's negligent operation of the automobile. The plaintiff's complaint stated a cause of action permitted by General Statutes § 38-323,
After a hearing, the trial court, Reilly, J., granted the motion to strike in an oral decision. The court expressly based its decision on this court's opinion in Gibson v. Fullin, 172 Conn. 407, 374 A.2d 1061 (1977), our most recent decision affirming the doctrine that
On appeal to this court, the plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in granting the defendant's motion to strike. Recognizing that the trial court and the Appellate Court accurately applied the rules governing conflict of laws that our Connecticut cases have previously articulated, the plaintiff urges this court to reexamine the propriety of our continued adherence to the doctrine of lex loci delicti in cases of personal injury. In the particular circumstances of this case, the plaintiff maintains, we should no longer adhere rigidly to the doctrine of lex loci but should instead seek to discern and to apply the law of the jurisdiction that has the most significant relationship to the controversy, in accordance with the principles of the Restatement Second of Conflict of Laws. Under the Restatement, according to the plaintiff, the jurisdiction that has the most significant relationship to this tort action is not Quebec but Connecticut. Quebec, although it was the place of injury, has no significant interest in applying its statutory compensation scheme to the controversy because the location of the automobile accident in Quebec was purely fortuitous. Connecticut, by contrast, has a substantial interest in applying its law to the case because: (1) both parties are domiciled and employed in Connecticut; (2) both parties are subject to the requirements and entitled to the benefits of Connecticut's no-fault
This court has traditionally adhered to the doctrine that the substantive rights and obligations arising out of a tort controversy are determined by the law of the place of injury, or lex loci delicti. Gibson v. Fullin, supra, 411; Menczer v. Menczer, 160 Conn. 563, 564-65, 280 A.2d 875 (1971); Landers v. Landers, 153 Conn. 303, 304, 216 A.2d 183 (1966); Orr v. Ahern, 107 Conn. 174, 176, 139 A. 691 (1928). Recently, however, we have recognized that there are circumstances in which strict application of the lex loci delicti rule frustrates the legitimate expectations of the parties and undermines an important policy of this state. In such circumstances, we have refused to apply the doctrine. Simaitis v. Flood, 182 Conn. 24, 437 A.2d 828 (1980).
Simaitis was a plaintiff's appeal of an adverse summary judgment in a negligence action arising out of an automobile accident that occurred in Tennessee. The parties were Connecticut domiciliaries employed by a Connecticut corporation. The accident occurred while they were traveling in the course of their employment. The dispositive issue on appeal was whether the governing law was the workers' compensation act of Tennessee, which barred the plaintiff's action for damages, or the Connecticut act, which permitted such an action. We held that application of the lex loci rule in these circumstances afforded an "unsatisfactory resolution" to the choice of law problem; id., 29; noting that to employ the rule "would bestow upon temporary visitors injured in Connecticut all the relief which the Connecticut
Our decision in Simaitis has rightly been interpreted as a signal that we are not wholeheartedly committed to application of lex loci as the sole approach to choice of law in all torts cases. See R. Silver & S. Twardy, "The Connecticut Torts Conflict of Laws Rule: A Proposal for Change," 57 Conn. B.J. 236, 237-38 (1983). Similarly, two federal district court cases have interpreted dicta in Gibson v. Fullin, supra, as contemplating circumstances in which Connecticut courts might deviate from the lex loci doctrine provided a "compelling reason" exists to do so. Halstead v. United States, 535 F. Sup. 782, 788 (D. Conn. 1982), aff'd sub nom. Saloomey v. Jeppesen & Co., 707 F.2d 671 (2d Cir. 1983); DeForneaux v. Sturm, Ruger & Co., 503 F. Sup. 2, 4 (D. Conn.), aff'd, 639 F.2d 768 (2d Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 451 U.S. 908, 101 S.Ct. 1975, 68 L. Ed.2d 295 (1981).
We have consistently held that "a court should not overrule its earlier decisions unless the most cogent reasons and inescapable logic requires it." Herald Publishing Co. v. Bill, 142 Conn. 53, 62, 111 A.2d 4 (1955); see also State v. Castonguay, 194 Conn. 416, 435, 481 A.2d 56 (1984); Society for Savings v. Chestnut Estates, Inc., 176 Conn. 563, 570, 409 A.2d 1020 (1979). We have also recognized, however, that "[p]rinciples of law which serve one generation well may, by reason of changing conditions, disserve a later one," and that "[e]xperience can and often does demonstrate that a rule, once believed sound, needs modification to serve justice better." Herald Publishing Co. v. Bill, supra. Accordingly, we now undertake to analyze the policies and principles underlying the doctrine of lex loci delicti, as a preliminary step to determining whether "cogent reasons and inescapable logic" demand that we abandon the doctrine under the circumstances of the present case.
The doctrine of lex loci delicti, as first adopted by American courts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, presumes that the rights and obligations of the parties to a tort action "vest" at the place of injury. See 3 J. Beale, Conflict of Laws (1935) p. 1968. Justice Cardozo, describing the vested rights theory in Loucks v. Standard Oil Co., 224 N.Y. 99, 110, 120 N.E. 198 (1918), stated: "A foreign statute is not law in this state, but it gives rise to an obligation, which, if transitory, `follows the person and may be enforced wherever the person may be found .... [I]t is a principle of every civilized law that vested rights shall be
The vested rights theory of choice of law is an anachronism in modern jurisprudence. Its underlying premise, that the legislative jurisdiction of the place where a right "vests" must be recognized in every other jurisdiction, presupposes that a nationally uniform system of choice of law rules is necessary and desirable. See R. Leflar, American Conflicts Law (1968) pp. 205-206. Choice of law rules are not immutable principles, however. Subject to the limitations of the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment
Stripped of the mantle of constitutional authority, the vested rights doctrine is simply another legal theory, and one which has been the subject of extensive criticism for the past half century. See W. Cook, "The Logical and Legal Bases of the Conflict of Laws," 33 Yale L.J. 457 (1924); E. Lorenzen, "Territoriality, Public Policy and the Conflict of Laws," 33 Yale L.J. 736 (1924); H. Yntema, "The Hornbook Method and the Conflict of Laws," 37 Yale L.J. 468 (1928). Professor David F. Cavers criticized the vested rights doctrine as ignoring the substantive content of legal rules and focusing exclusively on territorial concerns, "the law's content being irrelevant to the choice" of law. D. Cavers, Re-Stating the Conflict of Laws: The Chapter on Contracts, in XXth Century Comparative and Conflicts Law (1961) pp. 349, 350. Another, more fundamental criticism of the vested rights theory of conflicts of law is that it fails to explain "why the law of the place of wrong should be applied to cases which have arisen there. [It gives] us a guiding principle but without any raison d'etre." M. Hancock, Torts in the Conflict of Laws (1942) p. 36.
The theoretical barrenness of the vested rights doctrine, from which the rule of lex loci delicti derives, is
Because choice of law is a matter of "broad public policy," the defendant argues that it is the province of the legislature, and not the courts, to make doctrinal changes in established law. Some of the courts that have chosen to adhere to the lex loci doctrine have expressed similar sentiments. See Friday v. Smoot, supra, 493; White v. King, supra, 355. We disagree. The lex loci doctrine is the creation of jurists and scholars, not legislators. See generally M. Hancock, supra, pp. 30-36 (1942); 3 J. Beale, Conflict of Laws (1935) p. 1968; see also Gutierrez v. Collins, 583 S.W.2d 312, 315 (Tex. 1979). Statutes deal expressly with choice of law issues only rarely and episodically. See R. Traynor, "Is This Conflict Really Necessary?" 37 Tex. L. Rev. 655, 673 (1959). The defendant's reliance, in this regard, on General Statutes § 52-572d
Regarding stare decisis, the second argument in favor of retaining lex loci, we have already noted that, while courts should not overrule established precedent except in compelling circumstances, the force of precedent will not hinder our rejection of a rule whose application no longer serves the ends of justice. Herald Publishing Co. v. Bill, 142 Conn. 53, 62, 111 A.2d 4 (1955). The arguments for adherence to precedent are least compelling, furthermore, "when the rule to be discarded may not be reasonably supposed to have determined the conduct of the litigants, and particularly when in its origin it was the product of institutions or conditions which have gained a new significance or development with the progress of the years." Hopson v. St. Mary's Hospital, 176 Conn. 485, 496 n.5, 408 A.2d 260 (1979), quoting B. Cardozo, The Nature of
The third argument in favor of retention of the doctrine of lex loci is that it imparts certainty, predictability, and ease of application to choice of law rules. We do not underestimate these characteristics. "Simplicity in law is a virtue. Judicial efficiency often depends upon it." R. Leflar, "Choice-Influencing Considerations in Conflicts Law," 41 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 267, 288 (1966). The virtue of simplicity must, however, be balanced against the vice of arbitrary and inflexible application of a rigid rule. "Ease of determining applicable law and uniformity of rules of decision ... must be subordinated to the objective of proper choice of law in conflict cases, i.e., to determine the law that most appropriately applies to the issue involved...." (Citations omitted.) Reich v. Purcell, 67 Cal.2d 551, 555, 432 P.2d 727, 63 Cal.Rptr. 31 (1967). In the present case, application of the lex loci delicti doctrine
We note, furthermore, that lex loci's arguable advantages of uniformity and predictability have been undermined by its widespread rejection by courts and scholars, and by judicial constructions that avoid its strict application. Lex loci "no longer affords even a semblance of the general application that was once thought to be its great virtue." Reich v. Purcell, supra, 555. Even when it was the dominant American choice of law rule, courts frequently took advantage of various "escape devices" that allowed them to pay lip service to lex loci while avoiding its strict application.
We now consider the fourth principal argument in favor of retention of lex loci, that application of the doctrine prevents forum courts from exercising parochial favoritism. Without lex loci, there is a risk that the forum will not take seriously the foreign jurisdiction's legitimate interest in the controversy. See generally comment, "Selection of Law Governing Measure of Damages for Wrongful Death," supra, 1509. How seriously this risk is viewed depends upon an assessment of the available alternatives. "The alternative to a hard and fast system of doctrinal formulae is not anarchy. The difference is not between a system and no system, but between two systems; between a system which purports to have, but lacks, complete logical symmetry and one which affords latitude for the interplay and clash of conflicting factors." F. Harper, "Policy Bases of the
We are, therefore, persuaded that the time has come for the law in this state to abandon categorical allegiance to the doctrine of lex loci delicti in tort actions. Lex loci has lost its theoretical underpinnings. Its formerly broad base of support has suffered erosion. We need not decide today, however, whether to discard lex loci in all of its manifestations. It is sufficient for us to consider whether, in the circumstances of the present case, reason and justice require the relaxation of its stringent insistence on determining conflicts of laws solely by reference to the place where a tort occurred.
In deciding how to assess a replacement for lex loci, we recognize that the legal literature offers us various alternative approaches to the problems of choice of law. Three such approaches have gained widespread judicial acceptance: (1) the choice of law rules promulgated in the Restatement Second of Conflict of Laws; (2) the "governmental interest" approach developed
We turn now to an examination of the relevant provisions of the Restatement Second of Conflict of Laws in the context of the dispute presently before us. We note that the defendant, if he cannot persuade us to retain the doctrine of lex loci in its entirety, argues, in the alternative, that application of the principles of the Restatement would likewise require deference to the law of Quebec in the circumstances of this case. Careful analysis of the relevant Restatement provisions persuades us of the merits of the opposite conclusion.
Section 145 of the Restatement Second provides in subsection (1) that "[t]he rights and liabilities of the parties with respect to an issue are determined by the local law of the state which, with respect to that issue, has the most significant relationship to the occurrence and the parties under the principles stated in § 6." Section
Applying the choice of law analysis of §§ 145 and 6 to the facts of this case involves a weighing of the relative significance of the various factors that § 6 lists. Of greatest importance for present purposes are the choices of policy emphasized in § 6 (2) (b), (c) and (e). We are not today concerned with a case that offends systemic policy concerns of another state or country, nor do the facts warrant an inference of justified expectations concerning the applicability of anything other than the law of the forum.
For assistance in our evaluation of the policy choices set out in §§ 145 (1) and 6 (2), we turn next to § 145 (2) of the Restatement, which establishes black-letter rules of priority to facilitate the application of the principles of § 6 to tort cases. See H. Kay, "Theory into Practice: Choice of Law in the Courts," 34 Mercer L. Rev. 521, 555 (1983). Section 145 (2) provides: "Contacts to be taken into account in applying the principles of § 6 to determine the law applicable to an issue include: (a) the place where the injury occurred, (b) the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred, (c) the domicil, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the parties, and (d) the place where the relationship, if any, between the parties is centered. These contacts are to be evaluated according to their relative importance with respect to the particular issue."
In the circumstances of the present case, because the plaintiff was injured in Quebec and the tortious conduct occurred there, § 145 (2) (a) and (b) weigh in favor of applying Quebec law.
In order to apply the § 6 guidelines to the circumstances of the present case, we must, therefore, turn our attention once more to the particular issue whose disparate resolution by two relevant jurisdictions gives rise to the conflict of laws. Specifically, we must analyze the respective policies and interests of Quebec, the place of injury, and Connecticut, the forum state, with respect to the issue of whether the plaintiff should be allowed to recover damages from the defendant in a private cause of action premised on the defendant's negligent operation of an automobile. In the process of that analysis, we must evaluate the relevance of each jurisdiction's § 145 (2) contacts to this particular controversy.
We first consider the policies and interests of Quebec in this regard. Quebec, as the place of injury, has an obvious interest in applying its standards of conduct to govern the liability, both civil and criminal, of persons who use its highways. See Hauch v. Connor, 295 Md. 120, 124, 453 A.2d 1207 (1983); Fox v. Morrison Motor Freight, Inc., 25 Ohio St.2d 193, 198, 267 N.E.2d 405 (1971); Tower v. Schwabe, 284 Or. 105, 107, 585 P.2d 662 (1978). "This interest arises from the right and duty of the sovereign to protect those within its borders from injury to person or property .... " Comment, "Selection of Law Governing Measure of Damages for Wrongful Death," 61 Colum. L. Rev. 1497, 1510 (1961). If the issue at stake in the present controversy were whether the defendant's conduct was negligent, we might well conclude that Quebec's interest
In the present case, however, the relevant Quebec law expresses no interest in regulating the conduct of the defendant, but rather limits the liability exposure to which his conduct subjects him. Quebec's Automobile Insurance Act, Quebec Revised Statutes, chapter A-25, presumably embodies policies similar to that of our own no-fault automobile insurance act: assurance to automobile accident victims of access to expeditious and adequate financial compensation, and assurance to automobile owners of access to insurance at reasonable premiums. Compare General Statutes § 38-319 et seq.; Gentile v. Altermatt, 169 Conn. 267, 289-94, 304, 363 A.2d 1 (1975), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 1041, 96 S.Ct. 763, 46 L. Ed.2d 631 (1976); see also Thomas v. Hanmer, 109 App. Div.2d 80, 84, 489 N.Y.S.2d 802 (1985) (identifying same purposes in evaluating Quebec no-fault act with reference to New York no-fault statute). Quebec, however, has chosen to implement this policy, in title II, § 4, with a provision which, like our workers' compensation act; General Statutes § 31-275 et seq.; eschews investigation into the possible negligence of the defendant's conduct and limits the amount of damages the victim of the defendant's conduct may recover.
The policies behind Quebec's no-fault rule would not be substantially furthered by application of Quebec law in the circumstances of the present case. In this case, neither the victim nor the tortfeasor is a Quebec resident. There is no evidence on the record that the vehicle involved in the accident was insured or registered in Quebec. Cf. Peters v. Peters, 63 Haw. 653, 666, 634 P.2d 586 (1981) (fact that rental automobile insured in place of injury gave place of injury interest in applying its law). Rather, the record indicates that the parties were merely "passing through" the province, and that the location of the accident was fortuitous. Clearly the goal of reducing insurance premiums in Quebec is not furthered by application of the Quebec no-fault act to an accident involving only nonresidents of Quebec, in an automobile that was not insured in the province. Quebec's interest in alleviating the administrative and judicial costs of automobile accident litigation is in no way implicated when, as in this case, a nonresident brings suit against another nonresident in a foreign jurisdiction. We note that a Quebec resident suing the defendant in Connecticut would not be subject to the Quebec act's lawsuit prohibition; under the Quebec act, such a plaintiff would be entitled to statutory compensation under Quebec law as well as any damages recoverable in a private action under Connecticut law.
The foregoing analysis leads us to conclude that Quebec's status as the place of injury is not a significant contact for purposes of our choice of law inquiry in this case. Accordingly, since Quebec has no other contacts with this litigation, we hold that Quebec has no interest in applying its no-fault act to bar the plaintiff's action.
In order to justify the application of Connecticut law to the issue at stake, however, we must consider whether Connecticut's contacts with the litigation give it a legitimate interest in applying its law to the controversy. We are persuaded that Connecticut does have the requisite significant contacts.
Our conclusion that we should look to the law of Connecticut rather than to the law of Quebec in this case should not be construed as a blanket endorsement of reliance on Connecticut law in all circumstances. We
We therefore reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court upholding the trial court's granting of the motion to strike the plaintiff's complaint, and direct that this case be remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
In this opinion the other justices concurred.
"4. The indemnities provided for in this title are in the place and stead of all rights, recourses and rights of action of any one by reason of bodily injury caused by an automobile and no action in that respect shall be admitted before any court of justice.
"Subject to section 18, where bodily injury was caused by an automobile, the pecuniary compensations or benefits provided for the compensation of such injury by the Workmen's Compensation Act (chapter A-3) or by the Crime Victims Compensation Act (chapter 1-6) are in the place and stead of all rights, recourses and rights of action of any one by reason of such bodily injury and no action in that respect shall be admitted before any court of justice.
"The preceding provisions of this section do not apply to the cases contemplated in section 17.
"Nothing in this section limits the right of a victim to claim an indemnity under a private insurance scheme, regardless of who is at fault."
In addition, the New York approach to choice of law, which evaluates and balances the contacts of jurisdictions involved in a choice of law controversy in order to apply the law of the jurisdiction that is the "center of gravity" of the controversy; see Babcock v. Jackson, 12 N.Y.2d 473, 479, 191 N.E.2d 279, 240 N.Y.S.2d 743 (1963); is commonly viewed as having merged with the Restatement Second approach. H. Kay, "Theory into Practice: Choice of Law in the Courts," 34 Mercer L. Rev. 521, 526-27 (1983).
"In an action for a personal injury, the local law of the state where the injury occurred determines the rights and liabilities of the parties, unless, with respect to the particular issue, some other state has a more significant relationship under the principles stated in § 6 to the occurrence and the parties, in which event the local law of the other state will be applied."