Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Lex Loci Delecti Definition:

Latin: the place of the wrong.

Related Terms: Lex Loci, Lex Fori, Place of the Wrong

Increasingly anglicized as the place of the wrong or the place of the injury.

Often presented, simply, as lex loci (and as distinguished from lex fori).

In Leonard v Houle, Justice Charron of the Ontario Court of Appeal used these words:

"The governing law in this case is the lex loci delicti, the law of the place where the activity occurred."

But, as the Ontario Court of Appeal noted in Hanlan v Sernesky, the Court has:

"... discretion to apply the lex fori in circumstances where the lex loci delicti rule would work an injustice."

In O'Connor, then-Chief Justice Peters of the Supreme Court of Connecticut wrote:

"[T]he nature and extent of tort liability is governed by the place of injury, hereinafter referred to as lex loci delicti or lex loci.

"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.

"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...."

"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.

"The theoretical barrenness of the vested rights doctrine, from which the rule of lex loci delicti derives, is but one of the many reasons that a majority of state courts have rejected the rule of lex loci, and that legal scholars have virtually unanimously urged its abandonment.

"The basic theme running through the attacks on the place of injury rule is that wooden application of a few overly simple rules, based on the outmoded vested rights theory, cannot solve the complex problems which arise in modern litigation and may often yield harsh, unnecessary and unjust results. The lex loci approach fails to acknowledge that jurisdictions other than the place of injury may have a legitimate interest in applying their laws to resolve particular issues arising out of a tort controversy."

In Griffith, Justice reiterated this example, taken from Carter v. Tillery as an "extreme example of the unjustness of rigid, unreasoned adherence to the rule":

"Plaintiff, her husband and defendant, all residents of Texas, were on a flight from New Mexico to El Paso, Texas, in defendant's private plane. The plane strayed off course and landed on a dirt road in Mexico. While attempting to take off, the plane crashed. The Texas forum held that the law of the place of injury, Mexico, applied. Since the Mexican remedy was so dissimilar from that afforded in Texas, the Texas court refused to grant relief and dismissed. Apparently, because all parties were residents of Texas, suit could not have been brought in Mexico. Thus, plaintiff was left without redress."

 

REFERENCES:

  • Carter v. Tillery, 257 S.W. 2d 465 (Civ. App. Tex. 1953)
  • Dempsey, Paul, Aviation Liability Law (Toronto: LexisNexis, 2013), page 11
  • Griffith v. United Air Lines, Inc., 416 Pa. 1 (Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 1964)
  • Hanlan v. Sernesky, 38 O.R. (3d) 479 (1998)
  • Leonard v. Houle, 154 D.L.R (4th) 640 (1997, ONCA)
  • Mayrand, A., Dictionnaire de maximes et locutions latines utilisée en droit (Montréal: Editions Yvon Blais, 2007), page 319.
  • O'Connor v. O'Connor, 201 Conn. 632 (1986, Supreme Court of Connecticut). Editor's note: some parts of the extract have been re-ordered to assist in a more logical presentation of the law.
  • Samson v. Holden, [1963] S.C.R. 373
  • Tolofson v. Jensen, [1994] 3 S.C.R. 1022

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