Choice of Law in the American Courts in 2009: Twenty-Third Annual Survey

American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 58, 2010

76 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2009

See all articles by Symeon Symeonides

Symeon Symeonides

Willamette University - College of Law

Date Written: December 31, 2009


This is the Twenty-Third Annual Survey of American Choice-of-Law Cases. It is written at the request of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Conflict of Laws and is intended as a service to fellow teachers and students of conflicts law, both within and outside the United States. Its purpose is to inform, rather than to advocate.

The Survey covers cases decided by American state and federal appellate courts from January 1 to December 31, 2009, and posted on Westlaw before the end of the year. Of the 1,490 conflicts cases meeting both of these parameters, the Survey focuses on those cases that may contribute something new to the development or understanding of conflicts law - and particularly choice of law.

For the conflicts afficionados, 2009 brought many noteworthy developments, including the enactment of the second choice-of-law codification for tort conflicts in the United States, and a plethora of interesting cases, such as the following:

- Several cases brought under the Alien Torts Statute (ATS) involving human rights abuses in foreign sites, including Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, one case denying a Bivens remedy to a victim of “extraordinary rendition,” and one case allowing an ATS action against an American pharmaceutical company for nonconsensual medical experiments on children in Nigeria;

- Two cases holding that the Holy See was amenable to suit under the tortious activity exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act for sexual abuses allegedly committed by clergymen in the United States;

- Two cases declaring unconstitutional two California statutes (dealing with Nazi looted artwork and the Armenian Genocide, respectively) as infringing on the Federal Government’s exclusive power over foreign affairs;

- Several cases dealing with the recognition of same-sex marriages and their implications on issues of parentage, adoption, and child custody; Several cases striking down (and a few enforcing) class-action or class-arbitration waivers in consumer contracts;

- A Minnesota case holding that Panama’s blocking statute did not prevent dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds an action arising from events occurring in Panama; and

- A case of legal malpractice for mishandling a conflicts issue, a case involving alienation of affections and “criminal conversation,” and the usual assortment of tort, product liability, and statute of limitation conflicts.

Keywords: Choice of law, Conflict of Laws, Private International Law, Choice of Forum, Party autonomy, consumer contract, products liability, torts, forum non conveniens, same sex marriage, Alien Tort Statute, Tort Victim Protection Act, Foreign Sovereign Immunity, Extraterritoriality, class action, class arb

JEL Classification: K10, K13, K33, K40, K41, K12

Suggested Citation

Symeonides, Symeon, Choice of Law in the American Courts in 2009: Twenty-Third Annual Survey (December 31, 2009). American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 58, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Symeon Symeonides (Contact Author)

Willamette University - College of Law ( email )

245 Winter St. SE
Salem, OR 97301
United States

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