While at the house, Michael Amoroso and Stephen Freeman fought. Freeman contends that he was attacked by Discher, Quinn, and Pellechia. Amoroso was stabbed in the chest by Freeman during the fight. The North Wildwood Rescue Squad and Atlantic/Cape Mobile Intensive Care Consortium were contacted for assistance. The North Wildwood Rescue Squad transported Michael Amoroso to the Emergency Department of Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital in Cape May Court House, New Jersey.
Theresa Bridge-Jackson, M.D. and Warren Ventriglia, M.D. treated Amoroso in the emergency room of the hospital at approximately 11:00 p.m. on June 16, 1992. Both doctors are licensed to practice medicine in New Jersey and they work in the Cape May area. Amoroso was moved to the operating room of Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital by 11:38 p.m. Carmen Alameno, M.D. and Vinayak Sabnis, M.D., surgeons in the Cape May area who are licensed in New Jersey and are on staff at the Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital, performed a thoracotomy and sutured the right ventricle and right atrial appendage. Michael Amoroso died in the operating room at about 12:25 a.m. on June 17, 1992.
The plaintiff, Jeanne Amoroso, is the mother of the decedent and has been granted Letters of Administration for the Estate of Michael Amoroso, deceased, by the Register of Wills of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and Letters of Administration Ad Prosequendum for said decedent by the Surrogate of Cape May County. On June 15, 1994, plaintiff instituted an action against Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital, Carmen J. Alameno, M.D., Vinayak M. Sabnis, M.D., Vinayak M. Sabnis, M.D., P.A., Theresa Bridge-Jackson, M.D., Warren Ventriglia, M.D., North Wildwood Rescue Squad, Donald and Mary Loder, Powell, Inc., Twin Power, Inc., and a variety of John/Jane Doe defendants. These defendants are all New Jersey citizens.
North Wildwood Rescue Squad brought a third-party claim against Stephen Freeman and Atlantic/Cape Intensive Care Unit. Stephen Freeman brought a fourth-party claim against Michael Jerome Quinn, Michael James Discher, and Paul Joseph Pellechia, all of whom were allegedly involved in the fight during which Michael Amoroso was stabbed. Atlantic/Cape Intensive Care Unit is a New Jersey citizen while Freeman, Quinn, Discher, and Pellechia are Pennsylvania citizens.
A. Choice of Law Rules
In a diversity action, a federal district court applies the choice of law rules of the state in which it sits. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496, 85 L. Ed. 1477, 61 S. Ct. 1020 (1941); McFarland v. Miller, 14 F.3d 912, 917 (3d Cir. 1994). New Jersey applies a "governmental interest" test to choice of law issues. Veazey v. Doremus, 103 N.J. 244, 510 A.2d 1187 (N.J. 1986). Under this test, the court must first "determine whether a conflict exists between the law of the interested states." Id. at 248, 510 A.2d at 1189. This determination must be made "on an issue-by-issue basis." Id.
If the court finds that a conflict does exist, it must then determine "the state with the greatest interest in governing the particular issue." 510 A.2d at 1189. To do this, the court must "identify the governmental policies underlying the law of each state and how those policies are affected by each state's contacts to the litigation and the parties." Id. It is "the qualitative, not the quantitative, nature of a state's contacts [that] ultimately determines whether its law should apply." Id., 510 A.2d at 1190.
B. Choice of Survival Statute
1. Existence of a Conflict
The New Jersey Survival Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:15-3 (West 1987), allows for a recovery of damages for pain and suffering between the time of injury and death, while the Pennsylvania Survival Act, 20 Pa.C.S.A. § 3373 (1982) and 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8302 (1982), allows recovery not only for those damages but also for loss based on the prospective earning capacity of the deceased. See Bortner v. Gladfelter, 302 Pa. Super. 492, 448 A.2d 1386 (1982). Where the decedent is a young person with a limited earning history and no dependents this difference is significant. In urging the applicability of Pennsylvania law plaintiff argues that New Jersey has no interest in the administration of estates of non-resident decedents, Foster v. Maldonado, 315 F. Supp. 1179 (D.N.J. 1970), and that New Jersey's law was passed to establish a recovery for plaintiffs, not to limit the liability of defendants, Pollock v. Barrickman, 610 F. Supp. 878 (D.N.J. 1985). See also, Canino v. New York News, Inc., 96 N.J. 189, 475 A.2d 528 (1984) (reviewing the history of tort remedies in the context of whether an action for liable survives the death of the defamed party).
District courts in New Jersey have addressed this issue and have disagreed in their interpretation of the policies underlying the New Jersey survival statute. Judge Gerry has suggested that the legislative history of the survival statute demonstrates that it was principally, if not solely, passed as a remedial measure to create a cause of action for survivors of a decedent and not as a limitation of liability for defendants. Pollock, 610 F. Supp. at 880-81. See also, Canino, 96 N.J. at 191-94, 475 A.2d at 529-30. On the other hand, Judge Brotman and Judge Cohen have found that the survival statute was intended to protect New Jersey resident defendants from large recoveries. Mathis v. Motley, 649 F. Supp. 38, 40 (D.N.J. 1986)(Brotman, J.)(citing Colley v. Harvey Cedars Marina, 422 F. Supp. 953, 955 (D.N.J. 1976)(Brotman, J.) and Nolan v. Found. and Structures, No. 83-1372, 1984 WL, DCTU database (D.N.J. April 19, 1984)(Cohen, J.)).
The Third Circuit has recognized that a wrongful death statute inherently concerns the rights of both parties:
Inasmuch as N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:31-5 (West Supp. 1987) sets forth the type of damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death action, it reflects the New Jersey Legislature's determination both of what is fair for a plaintiff to recover and a defendant to pay in such a case. Accordingly, New Jersey's interest in this case is no less that Florida's and the judge correctly held that its law of damages should be applied.