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Saturday, March 12, 2016

New Wrongful Death Opinion: Hataway Redux

On March 11, 2016 the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Sterchi v. Savard, No. E2015-00928-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 11, 2016).  This opinion involves a wrongful death case where the death actually occurred in Florida but suit was filed here in Tennessee.  It serves as a reminder that Tennessee abandoned the doctrine of lex loci delicti in Hataway v. McKinley, 820 S.W.2d 53 (Tenn. 1992) and adopted the "most significant relationship" approach when determining what substantive law applies when a conflict of law arises as described herein.  

The summary from the majority opinion states as follows:
This appeal concerns a conflict of law choice between Tennessee and Florida law.  James R. Sterchi, Jr. (“Mr. Sterchi”) sued L. Basil Savard (“Mr. Savard”) in the Circuit Court for Bradley County (“the Trial Court”) for the wrongful death of Mr. Sterchi’s mother Rosalind Savard (“Mrs. Savard”) in a car accident in Florida.  Mr. Savard filed a motion for summary judgment. Florida law prevents Mr. Sterchi from pursuing his claim while Tennessee law does not.  All interested parties were domiciled in Tennessee.  The Trial Court held that Florida law applies and granted Mr. Savard’s motion for summary judgment.  Mr. Sterchi filed an appeal to this Court.  We hold that under “the most significant relationship” test as adopted by our Supreme Court in Hataway v. McKinley, 830 S.W.2d 53 (Tenn. 1992), Tennessee has the more significant relationship to the occurrence and parties in this case, and, therefore, Tennessee substantive law applies to Mr. Sterchi’s wrongful death action. We reverse the judgment of the Trial Court.
Here is a link to the majority opinion:

Here is a link to Judge Frierson's concurring opinion (which deals with the applicability of Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 20-16-101):

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