Truck Crash With Multiple Cars Was One “Occurrence”

A lot of people who should know better hopelessly botch an analysis of choice of law. On the other hand, there is Zurich American Ins. Co. v. Goodwin, 2006 WL 177608 (Miss. January 26, 2006), where the court went methodically and thoroughly through a choice of law analysis. The court reversed a lower court that had applied Mississippi law to a coverage dispute because Mississippi is where a multiple-vehicle crash occurred. The lower court incorrectly applied a type of “minimum contacts” analysis appropriate for personal jurisdiction but not appropriate for choice of law.
The case arose out of an accident where an eighteen-wheeler collided with eight other vehicles, killing two people and causing numerous injuries and property damage. The trucking company was insured under a Zurich policy that provided liability insurance of $1 million per accident. Under Mississippi insurance law, each vehicle constituted a separate accident, meaning $8 million was available to compensate victims. Under the law of Iowa, where the trucking company was headquartered, all eight vehicles constituted one accident subject to the $1 million limit. The court held that, under Section 188 of the Restatement (Second) of Conflicts of Laws, Iowa was the state of real interest: the insurance contract was entered into and performed there.

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