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Tyson v. Scartine

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle County

November 22, 1955

Evelyn M. TYSON, Widow of Thomas G. Tyson, Plaintiff,
v.
Anthony SCARTINE, Defendant.

Action, under Maryland Death Act, by motorist's widow to recover for herself and her four children, damages occasioned by alleged wrongful death of her husband. Defendant moved to dismiss upon ground that Maryland Death Act differed from that of Delaware to such a degree that Delaware was not, as matter of public policy, bound by principles of comity to enforce rights granted thereby. The Superior Court, Layton, J., held that Maryland Death Act, which differs from Delaware statute in that, in Maryland, action must be maintained in name of state for use of widow, parent, or child and jury apportions damages occasioned to each such beneficiary, while, in Delaware, action is maintained by widow for her own benefit, and that Maryland statute designates the beneficiaries of any recovery to be widow, parent, or child, whereas, in Delaware, sole beneficiary seems to be the widow, does not contravene the Delaware statute and does not violate any public policy of Delaware, and, therefore, the similarities between the two statutes are not so marked as to prohibit enforcement, upon principles of comity in Delaware, of rights granted under Maryland Death Act.

Motion denied.

Thomas G. Tyson was killed in an automobile accident in the State of Maryland. His widow has brought an action in this State based upon the Death Act of the State of Maryland, seeking to recover for herself and her four children damages occasioned by the wrongful death of her husband. Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss upon the ground that the Maryland Death Act differs from that of Delaware to such a degree that this State, as a matter of public policy, is not bound by the principles of comity to enforce rights granted thereby.

David B. Coxe, Jr., Wilmington, Del., for plaintiff.

William H. Bennethum, Wilmington, Del., for defendant.

LAYTON, Judge.

A cause of action arising under the laws of one state, being statutory, will not be enforced by another state as a matter of

Page 796

right but, rather upon principles of comity. Upon this subject, 11 Am.Jur., Conflict of Laws, § 4, p. 296, has this to say:

‘ No law has any effect, of its own force, beyond the limits of the sovereignty from which its authority is derived. The extent to which the law of one state or nation is allowed to operate within the dominion of another depends on what is commonly called ‘ the comity of nations.’ Comity, in the legal sense, is neither a matter of absolute obligation on the one hand nor of mere courtesy and good will upon the other. It has been defined as the recognition which one nation allows within its territory [49 Del. 444] to the legislative, executive, or judicial acts of another nation, having due regard both to international duty and convenience and to the rights of its own citizens or of other persons who are under the protection of its laws. It is also stated to be the doctrine under which contracts made, rights acquired, and obligations incurred in one country, in accordance with its laws, are recognized and enforced by the courts of another country.

‘ It is important to note that in the United States each state constitutes a distinct and independent sovereignty, and that consequently, the laws of one state do not operate in any other state ex proprio vigore. The intimate union of the states, however, as members of the same great political family leads to a greater degree of comity toward each other than is usual between foreign nations, and the tendency of modern decisions is toward a broader comity in the enforcement of rights created by the legislatures of sister states. A state court, in conformity to state policy, by comity gives a remedy which the full faith and credit clause does not compel.’

And the law has long been settled that a state will enforce rights arising under the statutes of a sister state provided the statute of the state in which the injury complained of arose does not contravene the statutes or announced public policy of the state in which the action is sought to be enforced. As stated in 11 Am.Jur., Conflict of Laws, § 6, p. 302:

‘ A court should not, in otherwise proper cases, refuse to apply the law of a foreign state, however unlike its own, unless it is contrary to pure morals or abstract justice or unless the enforcement would be of evil example and harmful to its own people. * * *.’

The rule just stated is in substantial accord with that laid down in Fidelity Insurance Trust & Safe Deposit Co. v. Niven, 5 Houst. 416, 431, where it was said:

[49 Del. 445] ‘ Generally, force and effect will be given by any State to foreign laws in cases where from the transactions of the parties they are applicable unless they affect injuriously her own citizens, violate her express enactments, or are contra bonos mores. * * *.’

In the same connection, the Supreme Court of the State of Virginia in State of Maryland for Use of Joynes v. Coard,175 ...


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