In Dyke v. Erie Railway, 45 N.Y. 113, 117, a passenger travelling upon a ticket by which a railroad corporation, established in New York, and whose road extended from one place to another in that state, passing through the States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey by their permission, agreed to carry him from one to another place in New York, was injured in Pennsylvania, by the law of which the damages in actions against railroads for personal injury were limited to $3000.Summary of this case from Liverpool Steam Co. v. Phenix Ins. Co.
Argued February 13th
Decided March 21st, 1871
John Ganson, for the appellant. Daniel Pratt, for the respondent.
James Emott, for the respondent.
The only question to be considered upon this appeal is as to the effect of the Pennsylvania statute, limiting the amount of the recovery in actions of this character. It is conceded that the statutes of one State are not obligatory upon the courts of other States; that they have not, proprio vigore, the force of law beyond the limits of the State enacting them. But it is sought to bring these actions within the operation and effect of the foreign statute upon the ground that the contracts were made with reference to the laws of that State, and the causes of action arose there.
The generally received rule for the interpretation of contracts, is that they are to be construed and interpreted according to the laws of the State in which they are made unless from their terms, it is perceived that they were entered into with a view to the laws of some other State. The lex loci contractus, determines the nature, validity, obligation and legal effect of the contract, and gives the rule of construction and interpretation, unless it appears to have been made with reference to the laws and usages of some other State or government, as when it is to be performed in another place, and then in conformity to the presumed intention of the parties, the law of the place of performance furnishes the rule of interpretation. ( Prentiss v. Savage, 13 Mass., 20; Medbury v. Hopkins, 3 Con., 472; Everett v. Vendryes, 19 N.Y., 436; Hoyt v. Thompson's Exr., id., 207; Curtis v. Leavitt, 15 N Y, 227.) The contracts before us were made in the State of New York, and between citizens of that State. The plaintiffs were actual inhabitants, and the defendant was a corporation existing by the laws of that State. The contracts were for the carriage and conveyance of the plaintiffs over the road of the defendant, between two places in the same State, to wit, from stations on the line of the road, in the western part of the State to the city of New York. The duty and obligation of the defendant, in the performance of the contracts commenced and ended within the State of New York. Although the route and line of the defendant's road between the places at which the plaintiffs took their passage and their destination, passed through portions of the States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, by the consent of those States respectively, the parties cannot be presumed to have contracted in view of the laws of those States. The contracts were single and the performance one continuous act. The defendant did not undertake for one specific act, in part performance in one State, and another specific and distinct act in another of the States named, as to which the parties could be presumed to have had in view the laws and usages of distinct places. Whatever was done in Pennsylvania, was a part of the single act of transportion from Attica, or Waverly, in the State of New York, to the city of New York, and in performance of an obligation assumed and undertaken in this State, and which was indivisible. The obligation was created here, and by force of the laws of this State, and force and effect must be given to it, in conformity to the laws of New York. ( Carnegie v. Morrison, 2 Metc., 381, Per SHAW, Ch. J.) The performance was to commence in New York, and to be fully completed in the same State, but liable to breach, partial or entire in the States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, through which the road of the defendant passed, but whether the contract was broken, and if broken, the consequences of the breach should be determined by the laws of this State. It cannot be assumed that the parties intended to subject the contract to the laws of the other States, or that their rights and liabilities should be qualified or varied by any diversities that might exist between the laws of those States and the lex loci contractus. The case of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. v. Shand (3 Moore's P.C., 272), is somewhat analogous in principle to the case at bar. A passenger, by an English vessel belonging to an English company, from Southampton to Mauritius, via Alexandria and Suez, sustained a loss of his baggage between Alexandria and Mauritius, and it was held that the contract for the passage was to be interpreted by the law of England, the place where the contract was made. The Supreme Court at Mauritius had held that the contract was governed by the French law in force in Mauritius, and refused to the defendants the benefit of an exemption from liability for loss of property, to which they were entitled by the terms of the contract as interpreted by the laws of England, and the judgment was reversed, upon appeal, by the Privy Council.
Whether the actions are regarded as actions of assumpsit upon the contracts, or as actions upon the case for negligence, the rights and liabilities of the parties must be judged by the same standard. The form of the action concerns the remedy, but does not affect the legal obligations of the parties. In either form of action the liability of the defendant, and the rights of the plaintiffs, are based upon the contracts. The defendant owed no duty to the plaintiffs, except in virtue of the contracts and the obligations for the violation and breach of which, an action may be brought are only co-extensive with the contracts made. It follows, that the law of Pennsylvania cannot enlarge or restrict the liability of parties to a contract, which for its validity, effect, and construction, is subject to the laws of New York. The damages to which a party is entitled, upon the breach of a contract, or violation of a duty growing out of a contract, and the rule and measure of damages pertains to the right and not to the remedy. It is matter of substance, and the principal thing sought, and not a mere incident to the remedy for the principal thing. It is conceded, that the statutes of Pennsylvania have no intrinsic extra territorial force, and that they bind only within the jurisdictional limits of the State. Upon principles of comity, effect is sometimes given by the courts of a State to foreign laws. In matters of contract, such effect is accorded to statutes of other States, only to carry out the intent of and do justice between the parties, never to qualify or vary the effect of a contract between parties not citizens of such foreign State, or subject to its laws, and not made in view of the laws of such State. Effect will not be given by the courts of a State to foreign laws in derogation of the contracts, or prejudicial to the rights of citizens. ( Liverpool, Brazil, c., Steam Navigation Company v. Benham, 2 Law Rep., P.C. Cases, 193; Hale v. N.J. St. Nav. Co., 15 Conn., 539; Arnott v. Redfern, 2 Carr. Payne, 88; Gale v. Eastman, 7 Met., 14.)
The actions are not given by the laws of Pennsylvania. They grow out of the contracts and the duties resulting from the contracts, and are given by the common law, and, therefore, the laws of another State in an action brought here cannot prescribe the measure of damages, or limit the liability of the parties.
The judgments should be affirmed.
CHURCH, Ch. J., PECKHAM, FOLGER, and RAPALLO, JJ., concurred. GROVER, J., did not vote, and ANDREWS, J., did not sit.