Yes, yes, the helicopter crash that killed people and hurt others happened in Hawaii. Lots of other stuff that may have led to the accident also took place in the Aloha State. Some relevant contacts had a nexus with France or Nevada. The defendant, though, had its main place of business in Grand Prairie, Texas (a suburb of Dallas). And the contract between the defendant — American Eurocopter — and the firm that flew the helicopter — Heli-USA — called for Texas law to govern their relationship as it concerned AE's providing of parts and technical info to Heli-USA.
National Union paid the crash victims' claims against Heli-USA as its insurer and then went after AE for its share of fault in the crash under a theory of contribution. But AE urged that Texas, not Hawaii, law governed and that it barred contribution claims against "other entities that were potentially liable as joint tortfeasors." Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. v. Am. Eurocopter Corp., No. 11-10798, slip op. at 3 (5th Cir. Aug. 27, 2012) (citing Beech Aircraft Corp. v. Jinkins, 739 S.W.2d 19, 21-22 (Tex. 1987)).
The Fifth Circuit upheld the district court's order dismissing National Union's claim against AE under the Texas anti-contribution rule. The whole thing turned on which state's laws applied. And that question, in turn, pivoted on the last factor in the test under section 6 of the Restatement (Second) Conflict of Laws — "the relevant policies of the forum, the policies of other states and their relative interests in the determination of the particular issue, and the protection of justified expectations." Id. at 6. On that point, the panel said:
We are skeptical that Texas courts would reach choice-of-law decisions that would frustrate that [anti-contribution] policy to the detriment of a Texas defendant, unless other considerations overwhelmingly favored a different forum.
Id. at 6-7 (emphasis in original).
Blawgletter will not weep too much for National Union. The insurer seems to have thought it bought the crash victims' claims against AE by settling their claims against Heli-USA. But any insurer with a lick of sense — and surely Big Bad National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — should have known that the Lone Star State has for a great while barred the very sort of claim National Union tried to push through in the Northern District of Texas.
Not a single tear will we shed.