The opinion of the court was delivered by: GARTH
On January 1, 1969, Mark Foster, a domiciliary of Pennsylvania, was involved in an automobile accident which resulted in his death on that same date. The car which struck Foster's was owned by defendant James R. Jones and was driven by defendant Ruben Maldonado, Jr. Liability on the part of Maldonado is admitted. The plaintiff herein appearing as Administratrix ad Prosequendum and General Administratrix of the Estate of Mark Foster, has dismissed the action against Jones.
The complaint seeks damages for the estate (survivorship) and for wrongful death. It is conceded that the New Jersey and Pennsylvania measure of damages in wrongful death actions are identical. Hence, the sole issue presented here is whether the New Jersey or Pennsylvania law of damages in survival actions should be applied. This Court is bound under the "Erie Doctrine" to apply the New Jersey conflict of laws rule. 1A J. Moore, Federal Practice para. 0.311 (2d ed. 1965).
Depositions taken of the decedent's mother reveal that the decedent Mark Foster was domiciled in Pennsylvania, having lived there with his mother. He had also been employed in Pennsylvania and his church and social activities were centered in Pennsylvania.
The defendant Maldonado and the defendant Jones (who has been dismissed from the action), were both domiciliaries of New Jersey; the automobile driven by Maldonado and owned by Jones was insured in New Jersey under New Jersey insurance rates.
The parents of the decedent had been divorced some twenty years previous, and the father having remarried, was a resident of New Jersey. However, the decedent saw his father infrequently and had never lived with him.
On the particular night in question, the decedent had been with a young lady who lived in New Jersey and whom he had visited on occasion. They attended a church service in New Jersey, after which they had planned to attend a New Year's Eve party in New Jersey. It was in the early morning hours of New Year's Day that the accident occurred from which Foster died.
Under the New Jersey Survival Act N.J.S.A. 2A:15-3, the damages recoverable are essentially for "pain and suffering" between the time of injury and death. Under the Pennsylvania Survival Act, 20 P.S. §§ 320.601-602-603, the recoverable damages are not limited to "pain and suffering", but also include "pecuniary loss" to the decedent's estate based upon the earning capacity of the decedent.
In view of the fact that Mark Foster's death occurred within a relatively short time, and on the same day as the accident, the measure of damages allowed under New Jersey law would be substantially less than that under Pennsylvania law, inasmuch as New Jersey does not permit pecuniary loss as an element of damages. It is this difference in the amount of damages recoverable that gave rise to the plaintiff's Motion that the Pennsylvania law of damages be made applicable to the cause of action.
1. that New Jersey no longer applies the lex loci delicti rule in choice of law cases, and that it has adopted the "governmental interest" rule;
2. that Pennsylvania has the dominant governmental interest, and as such its law should apply in the measurement of damages recoverable under the survivorship count of the complaint;
3. that the State of Pennsylvania has a strong interest concerning the estates of its decedents, and that New Jersey has no similar policy or interest in the administration of an estate of a Pennsylvania decedent;
4. that New Jersey has no substantial or equivalent interest in the amount of damages which may be recovered by such an estate, particularly in view of the absence of an arbitrary dollar limit ...