FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
from the Circuit Court for Orange County, John Marshall Kest,
Lindsey M. Tenberg, Lighthouse Point, for Appellant.
Michael M. Brownlee, of Fisher Rushmer, P.A., Orlando, for
issue that we address in this conflict of laws case is
whether Florida's dangerous instrumentality law should
apply to a case arising out of a motor vehicle accident that
occurred in South Carolina where the only two parties to the
litigation are Florida residents. The material facts of the
case are not in dispute. Appellee, Keith Morlock, and his
family were vacationing in South Carolina with his
brother-in-law, Paul Behrens, and his family. Behrens'
son needed a ride to a local airport, and Behrens asked
Appellee if he could borrow his vehicle. Appellee consented,
and while on the way to the airport, Behrens rear-ended the
car that Appellant, Lia Ward, was driving at an intersection
located in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.
filed a negligence suit solely against Appellee, seeking
damages under Florida's dangerous instrumentality
doctrine, which provides that an owner of a motor vehicle is
generally liable for injuries that are caused by the
vehicle's negligent operation. Michalek v.
Shumate, 524 So.2d 426, 427 (Fla. 1988). Appellee
answered the complaint, and after the parties conducted some
preliminary discovery, Appellee moved for final summary
judgment. Appellee argued that South Carolina law, rather
than Florida law, governed and that under South Carolina law,
the mere ownership of a vehicle is, without more,
insufficient to establish the owner's liability for the
negligence of the driver. See Thompson v. Michael,
433 S.E.2d 853, 855-56 (S.C. 1993). Appellee argued that
because there was no evidence that he negligently entrusted
his vehicle to his brother-in-law or that he would otherwise
be liable to Appellant under South Carolina's
"Family Purpose Doctrine, " final summary judgment was
proper. The trial court determined that South Carolina law,
rather than Florida law, applied and thereafter entered final
summary judgment in favor of Appellee.
standard of review for choice-of-law questions is de
novo." Higgins v. W. Bend Mutual Ins. Co., 85
So.3d 1156, 1157-58 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012) (citing Sosa v.
Safeway Premium Fin. Co., 73 So.3d 91, 102 (Fla. 2011);
Sigalas v. Lido Maritime, Inc., 776 F.2d 1512, 1516
(11th Cir. 1985)). In determining which state's law
applies in conflict of laws cases, Florida courts
historically utilized the lex loci delicti rule that
made the substantive law of the state where the injury
occurred applicable to personal injury actions. See
Hopkins v. Lockheed Aircraft Corp., 201 So.2d 743,
745-46 (Fla. 1967). However, in 1980, the Florida Supreme
Court receded from this doctrine and adopted the
"significant relationships test" as set forth in
sections 145-146 of the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of
Laws (Am. Law. Inst. 1971), which it described as the
"more flexible, modern approach" in determining
this issue. Bishop v. Fla. Specialty Paint Co., 389
So.2d 999, 1001 (Fla. 1980).
cited sections of the Restatement provide:
§ 145 The General Principle.
(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
(a) the place where the injury occurred,
(b) the place where the conduct causing the injury ...