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Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. v. Arteaga

Supreme Court of Delaware

April 6, 2015

BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON, INC., Defendant-Below, Appellant,
v.
ANDRES ARTEAGA, individually, and as Co-Representative of the Estate of Leonardo Andres Arteaga (deceased); and SOCORRO ARTEAGA, individually, and as Co-Representative of the Estate of Leonardo Andres Arteaga (deceased), et al., Plaintiffs-Below, Appellees

Submitted: February 18, 2015.

Case Closed April 22, 2015.

Page 1046

Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware in and for New Castle County. C.A. No. N12C-05-008 JRJ.

Joseph J. Bellew, Esquire, Damien Nicholas Tancredi, Esquire, Cozen O'Connor, Wilmington, Delaware; Catherine Slavin, Esquire (argued), Gordon & Rees LLP, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for Appellant.

Richard A. Zappa, Esquire, Timothy E. Lengkeek, Esquire, Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP, Wilmington, Delaware; Garvan F. McDaniel, Esquire, The Hogan Firm, Wilmington, Delaware; John C. Schwambach, Jr., Esquire (argued), Stevenson & Murray, Houston, Texas, for Appellees.

Before STRINE, Chief Justice; HOLLAND, VALIHURA, and VAUGHN, Justices; and GLASSCOCK,[*] Vice Chancellor; constituting the Court en Banc.

OPINION

Page 1047

STRINE, Chief Justice, for the Majority:

I. INTRODUCTION

Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. (" Bell" ), a Delaware corporation, appeals from a Superior

Page 1048

Court order determining that Texas law should govern litigation involving a helicopter that crashed in Mexico on October 15, 2010. Despite the presumption in the Restatement (Second) of Conflicts that the law of the place where the injury occurred should govern the dispute, [1] the Superior Court found that Texas law has the " most significant relationship" to the liability, damages, and remedies at issue. The court also opined that Texas law would be easier to apply than Mexican law because there would be no need to hire interpreters. In this interlocutory appeal, Bell argues that Mexican law is more appropriate because the decedents were all Mexican citizens, their relatives bringing this suit are all Mexican citizens, the helicopter was owned by a Mexican company, and it had been operated solely within Mexico for over thirty years when it crashed. Because the governing Restatement test to determine which sovereign's law to apply strongly favors Mexico, we reverse. The decision of which law to apply to tort claims must be made on neutral principles that apply in all cases. In this case, those principles unambiguously favor applying Mexican law to the liability, damages, and remedies at issue.

II. BACKGROUND

On October 15, 2010, a helicopter transporting mechanics and technicians from the Mexican state of Campeche to a work site in the Mexican state of Veracruz crashed, killing everyone on board. The helicopter was registered in Mexico and was owned by a Mexican company that provides transportation services within Mexico, and was thus regulated by Mexico's federal aviation authority. All of the victims, including the two pilots and seven passengers, were Mexican citizens.

Mexican federal aviation authorities determined that the cause of the crash was a defective inboard strap fitting. The helicopter was manufactured by Bell in 1979, and has been operated continuously in Mexico since that time. Bell also manufactured the strap fitting, which was installed in the helicopter in Mexico in 2009. The helicopter and ...


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