Lex Loci Delicti–What Laws Apply

What Law Applies: Georgia’s Choice of Law Rule in Tort Cases

An important legal component in every case is determining what law applies.  The answer to this question in many instances determines whether a plaintiff has a viable case.  This blog post will analyze Georgia’s approach to choice of law issues in tort cases.

What Law Applies for a Tort Committed in Georgia?

In tort cases, Georgia courts apply a choice of law rule known as “lex loci delicti.”  Dowis v. Mud Slingers, Inc., 279 Ga. 808 (2005).  Under this rule, the substantive law of the state where the tort was committed applies to the case.  Id.  In other words, if the tort is committed in Georgia, Georgia law applies to the case.

What Law Applies for a Tort Committed Outside of Georgia?

If the tort is committed outside of Georgia, courts in Georgia still apply the “lex loci delicti” rule to determine what law applies to the case.  Thus, if a tort occurs in Texas, for example, a Georgia court hearing the case would apply Texas substantive law to the case.  See Bagnell v. Ford Motor Co., 297 Ga. App. 835 (2009) (Georgia court applying Texas substantive law when the tort occurred in Texas).

What Law Controls Procedure and Remedy?

Georgia law controls questions of procedure and remedy when the case is brought in a Georgia court.  Id.  It does not matter where the tort occurred.  Because of this rule, it is essential that the plaintiff and their attorney correctly determine whether a particular issue is substantive or procedural.

When making this determination, it must be kept in mind that what matters is whether Georgia law considers the issue to be substantive or procedural; not whether another state considers the issue one of substance or procedure.  See Id. (In determining whether Georgia or Texas’ statute of repose applied, Georgia court analyzed the nature and purpose of a repose statute under Georgia law with no consideration of Texas law).

Can Georgia Law Ever Apply to an Outside Tort?

Although the “lex loci delicti” rule generally requires the substantive law of the state where the tort occurred to be applied, Georgia law recognizes a public policy exception to this rule.  Bailey v. Cottrell, Inc., 313 Ga. App. 371 (2011).  The effect of this exception is that Georgia law may still apply to the case even though the tort occurred outside of Georgia.  See Id.  (Georgia court holding that Georgia law applied to a design defect products liability claim even though the tort occurred in Indiana due to Indiana law not recognizing strict liability for design defects in contravention of Georgia public policy); see also O.C.G.A. § 1-3-9.

There is no substitute for knowing that the correct law is being applied to your case.  The attorneys at Butler Tobin know how to navigate complex choice of law issues, and will make sure that your case is being handled under the correct law.

If you have been injured in by a defective product, contact us for a free consultation or call (404) JUSTICE = (404) 587-8423.

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