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Ellis v. Barto

filed: July 2, 1996.

TRINA ELLIS AND SCOTT ELLIS, WIFE AND HUSBAND, APPELLANTS,
v.
RON BARTO AND JANE DOE BARTO, HUSBAND AND WIFE, AND THE MARITAL COMMUNITY COMPRISED THEREOF; AND MONTE BOHN AND JANE DOE BOHN, HUSBAND AND WIFE, AND THE MARITAL COMMUNITY COMPRISED THEREOF, RESPONDENTS.



Appeal from SUPERIOR COURT SPOKANE COUNTY. Superior Court No: 94-2-03261-0. Date filed in Superior Court: 3/7/95. Superior Court Judge signing: MARCUS KELLY.

Author: Philip J. Thompson. Concurring: Dennis J. Sweeney & Ray E. Munson

Author: Thompson

THOMPSON, J. --Trina and Scott Ellis appeal the summary judgment dismissal of their tort action against Ron Barto and Monte Bohn. The action arose out of a motor vehicle collision in Idaho and was dismissed on the grounds it was barred by Idaho's two-year statute of limitations. Ellises contend the trial court erred by not applying Washington's three-year limitation period. We affirm.

FACTS

Ms. Ellis and a friend, both Washington residents, were in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho on July 11, 1991 for a day visit. Ms. Ellis was on her way back to Spokane when her vehicle and a pickup being driven by Mr. Barto collided on a Coeur d'Alene street.*fn1 The pickup was owned by Mr. Bohn who was Mr. Barto's passenger at the time. Mr. Barto and Mr. Bohn, both Washington residents, were also in Coeur d'Alene for the day. Both vehicles were registered in Washington and both drivers were licensed in Washington.

On June 27, 1994, Ellises commenced this action in Spokane County, Washington against Mr. Barto and Mr. Bohn, alleging negligence by Mr. Barto in striking the Ellis vehicle. After answering the complaint, Mr. Barto and Mr. Bohn moved for dismissal, contending the Idaho statute of limitations barred the action. The trial court granted the motion and denied Ellises' request for reconsideration. Ellises then commenced this appeal.

ANALYSIS

Standard of Review . In deciding Mr. Barto's motion to dismiss, the trial court considered the pleadings as well as materials submitted by both parties. The material facts were undisputed and the court ruled as a matter of law that the Idaho statute of limitations applied. Accordingly, this court reviews the order of dismissal as a summary judgment and engages in the same inquiry as the trial court. Syrovy v. Alpine Resources, Inc., 122 Wash. 2d 544, 548 n.3, 859 P.2d 51 (1993). Issues of law are reviewed de novo. Id.

Conflict of Laws Methodology . A choice of law determination is made only if there is an actual conflict between the laws or interests of Washington and the laws or interests of another state. Burnside v. Simpson Paper Co.,, 123 Wash. 2d 93, 100-01, 864 P.2d 937 (1994). Differences in limitation periods are not subject to conflict of law methodology. Rice v. Dow Chem. Co., 124 Wash. 2d 205, 210, 875 P.2d 1213 (1994). Here, the conflicting laws identified are the differences between Washington's and Idaho's (a) liability limits of vehicle owners for the negligence of third persons operating their vehicle with permission, (b) comparative fault statutes, and (c) rules governing vehicle turnarounds.

Choice of Substantive Law. Washington has adopted the Uniform Conflict of Laws--Limitations Act. It provides that if a claim is substantively based upon the law of another state, the limitation period of that state applies. RCW 4.18.020(1)(a).*fn2

For purposes of determining which state's substantive law applies to the merits of a tort claim, Washington has adopted the most significant relationship rule. Johnson v. Spider Staging Corp., 87 Wash. 2d 577, 580, 555 P.2d 997 (1976). Therefore, in personal injury actions, the substantive law of the state where the injury occurs applies, unless with respect to the particular issue, some other state has a more significant relationship to the occurrence and the parties. Bush v. O'Connor, 58 Wash. App. 138, 144, 791 P.2d 915 (citing Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws ยง 146 (1971)), review denied, 115 Wash. 2d 1020, 802 P.2d 125 (1990). For purposes of determining which state has the most significant relationship, the following factors are relevant:

(b) the relevant policies of the forum,

(c) the relevant policies of other interested states and the relative interests of those states in the ...


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