Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Susan A. Shands

First Page



This case presented the district and circuit courts with the problem of how to maneuver the forum's conflict of laws rules in order to apply Texas law to an injury caused by a defective product manufactured in Texas when the injury occurred on foreign soil. On a policy basis, the lower courts did make the more equitable decision in applying Texas law. Viewed under one commentator's test, both lower courts were applying the law that would give the most predictable and uniform results, maintain international and interstate order, simplify the judicial task, advance the forum's interest, and apply the better rule of law. These policies, however, were not articulated by the courts in the instant case. Also, the application of Texas law would fulfill the "most significant relationship" test of the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws. The adoption of a federal choice of law rule would further the above-mentioned policies and free the federal courts from the need to apply automatically the law of an uninterested forum, and to follow blindly the Erie-Klaxon line of cases. Indeed, some writers feel that the creation of a national conflict of laws rule would not contradict Erie; to the contrary, those authors believe that Erie, far from doing away with federal common law, may have freed this interstitial body of law to "develop naturally in those areas in which national interests predominate." Such national interests are found in Challoner: the injured men were American servicemen engaged in combat for the United States; the product that caused the injury had been manufactured according to government specifications and safety regulations; the injury occurred in a foreign country. As Professor Jessup ably pointed out, the Erie Doctrine should not apply in the field of foreign relations because conducting international affairs is a federal prerogative and the states of the union generally do not participate in international affairs. Neither court discussed the predominance of the federal government over the state in international affairs in their opinions; a federal choice of law rule would establish needed guidelines in this area. It should be noted that a federal conflict of laws rule is not called for by all writers. Some writers feel that the difficulties in the area stem from the very existence of conflicts rules. However, most authors agree that the need for resolution of the federal conflict of laws issue is great in the modem shrinking world. Because of the desire for predictability, uniformity, preservation of expectations of parties, simplicity of the judicial task, and protection of federal interests, a national conflict of laws rule is necessary in a commercial tort case where the injury occurs on foreign soil. Challoner does not solve this problem; however, the decision dramatically illustrates the need for the Supreme Court to adopt a federal conflict of laws rule.