Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Christina Schippers, As Personal v. United States of America

November 29, 2011

CHRISTINA SCHIPPERS, AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF RICHARD SCHIPPERS, DECEASED, HEIDI C. SCHIPPERS, AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF SHANE PAUL SCHIPPERS, DECEASED, REBA Y. MAZAK, AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF PAUL M. MAZAK, II, DECEASED, AND DENISE SCHIPPERS AND SHARON COX-ESTEP, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



ORDER

This cause comes before the Court on Defendant UNITED STATES OF AMERICA's (the "Government" or the "United States") Motion to Dismiss Complaint of Plaintiffs DENISE SCHIPPERS and SHARON COX-ESTEP (Doc. No. 26), filed on May 16, 2011; Plaintiffs DENISE SCHIPPERS's and SHARON COX-ESTEP's Response in Opposition (Doc. No. 35), filed on May 31, 2011; Plaintiff REBA Y. MAZAK's ("Mazak") Motion to Dismiss Counterclaim (Doc. No. 61), filed on August 4, 2011; the Government's Response in Opposition (Doc. No. 67), filed on August 16, 2011; Mazak's Reply to Government's Response in Opposition (Doc. No. 77), filed on September 9, 2011; Plaintiffs Sharon Cox-Estep's and Denise Schippers's Motion to Apply Texas Law to Liability and Damages (Doc. No. 75), filed on September 2, 2011; the Government's Brief in Support for the Application of Texas Law to Liability and Florida Law to Damages (Doc. No. 72), filed on September 2, 2011; Plaintiff CHRISTINA SCHIPPERS's Memorandum on Choice of Law (Doc. No. 73), filed on September 2, 2011; Mazak's Memorandum on Choice of Law (Doc. No. 74), filed on September 2, 2011; and, Plaintiff HEIDI C. SCHIPPERS's ("Heidi Schippers") Brief on Choice of Law (Doc. No. 76), filed on September 2, 2011. These filings have the common goal of seeking a determination by the Court as to whether the law of Florida or Texas, or some combination of each, will apply to the issues of liability and damages.

BACKGROUND

On October 26, 2009, a twin-engine Beechraft King Air crashed near Benavides, Texas. All four occupants--pilot Paul M. Mazak, and passengers Richard K. Schippers, Shane P. Schippers (Richard's son) and Malcolm A. Lavender--passed away. The decedents*fn1 , who were returning to Florida from a hunting trip in South Texas, were residents of Florida. Christina Schippers, Heidi Schippers, and Mazak, as personal representatives of the estates of Richard K. Schippers, Shane P. Schippers, and Paul M. Mazak, respectively, and two potential estate beneficiaries, Denise Schippers and Sharon Cox-Estep,*fn2 filed separate actions against the United States under the Federal Torts Claim Act.*fn3 In each of those actions, it is alleged that the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") personnel at the Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center ("Houston Center") located in Houston, Texas, were negligent. In general terms, Plaintiffs claim that the negligence of an air traffic controller in the Houston Center, as well as failures of the FAA to train and supervise that controller, were the proximate cause of the crash. The Government, in addition to denying the allegations of negligence, contends that the pilot, Paul M. Mazak, was totally or partially responsible for the crash. The Court consolidated these actions for pre-trial and discovery purposes. (See Doc. Nos. 18, 25, 60.)

DISCUSSION

Plaintiffs brought the instant action under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671-80. Under the FTCA, "the liability of the United States for an injury is to be determined 'in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.' " Foster v. United States, 768 F.2d 1278, 1280 (11th Cir. 1985) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)). This includes the choice-of-laws doctrines of that jurisdiction. Richards v. United States, 369 U.S. 1, 9 (1962). In this case, the aircraft was being controlled from the ground by air traffic controllers located in the Houston Center. Thus, the alleged negligence having occurred in Texas, neither side disputes that the Texas choice-of-law doctrines govern this case.

A. Texas's Conflict-of-Laws Principles

Texas follows the "most significant relationship" test as enunciated in sections 6 and 145 of the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws.*fn4 Torrington Co. v. Stutzman, 46 S.W.3d 829, 848 (Tex. 2000). The determination of which state has the most significant relationship to the dispute involves a two step process. First, the Court must examine the four contacts identified in Restatement (Second) § 145 to determine which states may have an interest in the application of their law to the case. Next, using the criteria in Restatement (Second) § 6, the Court balances and evaluates the interests of those states to determine their relative importance with respect to the applicable law.

Section 145 of the Restatement (Second) provides:

(1) The rights and liabilities of the parties with respect to an issue in tort are determined by the local law of the state which, with respect to that issue, has the most significant relationship to the occurrence and the parties under the principles stated in § 6.

(2) Contacts to be taken into account in applying the principles of § 6 to determine the law applicable to an issue include:

(a) the place where the injury occurred,

(b) the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred,

(c) the domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the parties, and

(d) the place where the relationship, if any, between the parties is centered. Id. Section 6 of the Restatement (Second), entitled Choice of Law Principles, provides:

(1) A court, subject to constitutional restrictions will follow a statutory directive of its own state on choice of law.

(2) Where there is no directive, the factors relevant to the choice of the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.