action will be made pursuant to the law of Pennsylvania rather than the law of New Jersey. New Jersey requires that the calculation of future lost earnings be based on "probable net earnings, take home pay, the amount left after taxes are deducted." Model Jury Charge - Civil, 4th ed., Ch. 6.11D(2). New Jersey also requires that future damages be reduced to present value. Id. In contrast, Pennsylvania requires neither. Kaczkowski v. Bolubasz, 491 Pa. 561, 421 A.2d 1027, 1038 (Pa. 1980); Rivera v. Philadelphia Theological Seminary of St. Charles Borromeo, Inc., 510 Pa. 1, 507 A.2d 1, 12 (Pa. 1986), appeal after remand, 398 Pa. Super. 264, 580 A.2d 1341 (Pa. Super. 1990), appeal denied, 594 A.2d 659 (1991).
When jurisdiction is based upon diversity of citizenship, it is well settled that a federal district court must apply the choice-of-law rules of the forum state. Klaxon v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 85 L. Ed. 1477, 61 S. Ct. 1020 (1941). New Jersey courts follow the flexible governmental interest approach to choice of laws questions, Mellk v. Sarahson, 49 N.J. 226, 229 A.2d 625 (1967), and will apply the law of the jurisdiction having the most significant connection to the transaction involved in the suit. Henry v. Richardson-Merrell, Inc., 508 F.2d 28, 32 (3d Cir. 1975); Baron & Co., Inc. v. Bank of New Jersey, 504 F. Supp. 1199, 1204 (D.N.J. 1981).
The governmental interest approach analyzes the conflicting laws of each jurisdiction, the policies underlying those laws, and the factual context between the parties and each interested jurisdiction. Henry, 508 F.2d at 32-33. The analysis requires the measuring of the weight of a state's contact with the parties, not a mere counting of contacts. Cannon v. Hilton Hotels Corp., 664 F. Supp. 199, 200 (E.D. Pa. 1987). Occasionally, the examination of several states' laws reveal that the apparent conflict among the various laws is false. This is because the application of one state's laws would further its policy, while the application of the law of the alternative state would not further its underlying policy. Colley v. Harvey Cedars Marina, 422 F. Supp. 953, 955 (D.N.J. 1976). In such cases, the latter state is not an interested jurisdiction; therefore, its law will not be applied. Id.
The first step in our analysis is to determine whether a conflict exists between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It is well-settled under New Jersey law that the determination as to whether the states' law conflict is to be made on an issue-by-issue basis. Amoroso v. Burdette Tomlin Mem. Hosp., 901 F. Supp. 900, 903 (D.N.J. 1995); Pollock v. Barrickman, 610 F. Supp. 878, 879 (D.N.J. 1985); Veazey v. Doremus, 103 N.J. 244, 510 A.2d 1187 (1986); O'Connor v. Busch Gardens, 255 N.J. Super. 545, 605 A.2d 773 (App. Div. 1992). Thus, we reject defendant's contention that "the law of damages to be applied follows the choice of law [determination] governing the substantive legal issues." (Def.'s Br. in Opp'n at 4.) In the past, where our court has been faced with a conflict on the law of damages between two states, we have applied the governmental interest approach to determine if the damages question should be governed by the applicable substantive law, or the law of another jurisdiction. See, e.g., Pollock, 610 F. Supp. at 879. Here, the laws are conflicting on the specific issue of the calculation of damages.
Next, we must determine whether, as to that issue, there exists a true conflict of laws. In order to make this determination, we must examine the policies underlying Pennsylvania's rule concerning the calculation of damage amounts. It is clear to the Court that Pennsylvania has an interest in ensuring that its domiciliaries are fully compensated for injuries sustained as the result of a defendant's tortious conduct. See In re Air Crash Disaster, 575 F. Supp. 521, 526 (E.D. Pa. 1983); see also Girard Trust & Corn Exh. v. Philadelphia Transp. Co., 410 Pa. 530, 190 A.2d 293, 297 (1963). This "compensation interest" is implicated here, as plaintiffs are Pennsylvania residents who claim injuries based upon the actions of defendant, a corporation whose principal place of business is in New Jersey. (Am. Compl. PP 2, 3.)
Conversely, it appears that New Jersey's damage calculation is based upon the principle that damages in personal injury actions "should reflect as closely as possible, the plaintiff's actual loss." Ruff v. Weintraub, 105 N.J. 233, 239-40, 519 A.2d 1384 (1987). The goal in setting damages "is to compensate the plaintiff fairly and accurately for his losses." Bussell v. DeWalt Prods. Corp., 105 N.J. 223, 226, 519 A.2d 1379, 1381 (1987). Thus, the policy underlying the rule is rooted in "economic fairness" such that a plaintiff will not get a windfall as a result of the defendant's tortious conduct. Id., 519 A.2d at 1381. The facts presented here clearly implicate the policy underlying New Jersey's damage calculation rule. Defendant is a New Jersey domiciliary who may be subject to a damage award for the defective design of it product. Thus, New Jersey's interest in producing "an accurate award" is a "significant interest" that we must consider.
It is apparent that we are faced with a "true conflict" and a "true dilemma." See Pollock, 610 F. Supp. at 879. Thus, we must next examine the contacts between the parties and each state's contacts to the litigation. Amoroso, 901 F. Supp. at 903. "It is the qualitative, not the quantitative, nature of a state's contacts [that] ultimately determines whether its law should apply." Id. In general, courts begin by looking to the place of the injury. Id. However, the place of the injury is of little help in our determination, as the surgery took place in Bethedsa, Maryland.
Thus, we will examine, in the present context, the applicable contacts that each state has to the litigation. Here, defendant has no contacts whatsoever to the state of Pennsylvania. It appears that the only fact linking Pennsylvania to this lawsuit is that it is the domicile of plaintiffs. Conversely, defendant is domiciled in the state of New Jersey, and plaintiffs chose to bring this lawsuit in this forum. We think that under these facts, the state with the "most significant relationship" to the litigation is New Jersey. Moreover, we find that the New Jersey policy in promoting "fairness" and an accurate verdict, is of paramount importance. Thus, after considering the relevant factors, we find that New Jersey law should govern.
An Order accompanies this Opinion.
For the reasons expressed in the accompanying Memorandum Opinion,
IT IS therefore on this 30th day of March, 1998, ORDERED that defendant, Huntleigh Healthcare's motion for summary judgment be and hereby is DENIED ; and
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiffs William and Kimberly Poust's motion in limine for an Order applying Pennsylvania law to the issue of the calculation of damages be and hereby is DENIED. The law of the state of New Jersey will govern any computation of damages at trial.
MARY L. COOPER
United States District Judge