Torts and Choice of Law: Searching for Principles

11 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2006

See all articles by Keith N. Hylton

Keith N. Hylton

Boston University - School of Law

Date Written: October 31, 2006


If a tortious act (e.g., negligently firing a rifle) occurs in state X and the harm (e.g., killing a bystander) occurs in state Y, which state's law should apply? This is a simple example of the "choice of law" problem in torts. The problem arises between states or provinces with different laws within one nation and between different nations. In this comment, prepared for the 2006 American Association of Law Schools Annual Meeting, I examine this problem largely in terms of incentive effects, and briefly consider how the analysis could be incorporated into the standard introductory course on tort law. I conclude that a zone of foreseeable impact rule provides the best underlying principle in conflict of law situations. This rule supports the traditional legal approach (lex loci) to conflicts of laws and helps to explain modern approaches as well.

Keywords: tort, choice of law, zone of foreseeable impact, conflict of law, law of forum, law of injury site, law of decision site, balancing tests

JEL Classification: K13

Suggested Citation

Hylton, Keith N., Torts and Choice of Law: Searching for Principles (October 31, 2006). Boston Univ. School of Law Working Paper No. 06-41, Available at SSRN: or

Keith N. Hylton (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

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