Most people have never heard of conflict of law cases. They sound rather dry and when you try to explain them to someone who doesn’t have a law degree, they can come across sounding extremely complicated, but even though this branch of law is far from flashy, there have been several rulings over the years that have impacted how laws are interpreted to this day. Let’s take look at conflict of law cases throughout time and see if we can spotlight how they influence today’s modern society.
One of the most applicable pats of conflict law comes from divorce resolutions. If both parties in a divorce are from the same area and there is no property or belongings that overlap state or federal lines, then resolving the divorce is fairly straightforward, but if one or both of the parties are from a foreign country, the legal proceedings can become very time consuming to say the least. There are a series of rules and applications that divorce courts in the United States will use to attempt to distribute the property and belongings fairly, but in some cases, other countries have to agree with the rulings made in US court. If they don’t, an agreed upon solution may take decades.
Conflict law has also gone a long way in helping to determine the rights of the individual versus the rights of a company or corporation. In Watson v. Employers Liability Assurance Corp (1954), the Supreme Court of the United States decided that one law on the books in one state can not tie a corporation to rules that aren’t present in their own state. Fifty years before this when automobiles were still a figment of the imagination, it would have been impossible for an insurance company to imagine getting a policy in one state and then being sued by a law in a state 2000 miles away, but that’s exactly what happened in this case. The Supreme Court ruled on behalf of the insurance company and today, insurance companies simply sell different policies in every state they are allowed to do business in and many policies strictly state that if you leave state A, you must get a new policy.
Conflict of law rulings have also completely revolutionized the way class action lawsuits are heard by courts. In the landmark Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Shutts case from 1985, the Supreme Court ruled that a class action lawsuit must be considered under each individual law from each individual state in which each plaintiff is from. This is very significant when you consider the size and complexity of some class action lawsuits which can involve people from all 50 states. While this ruling may have done quite a bit to slow down the legal process, it does ensure that everyone gets a fair hearing under the laws that govern that particular state.
Conflict of law cases might lack glamour, but they are hugely influential in the day to day life of American citizens.