Greenfeld et al v. Megabus USA, LLC et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable John Robert Blakey on 3/1/2017. Mailed notice(gel, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
MOSHE GREENFELD and
MEGABUS USA, LLC and
Case No. 1:16-cv-01573
Judge John Robert Blakey
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs Moshe Greenfeld and Zipora Greenfeld (collectively “Plaintiffs”)
claim that on December 30, 2014, while traveling down Interstate 90 in Indiana,
their car was struck by a bus leased by Megabus USA, LLC (“Megabus”) and
operated by former Megabus employee Albert Jackson (“Jackson”) (collectively
“Defendants”).  at 1-2. Plaintiffs further allege that they received permanent
physical injuries from this accident. Id. at 4.
The parties dispute which state’s law governs this diversity action: Illinois
(which does not cap punitive damages) or Indiana (which has a punitive damages
cap). 1 For the following reasons, Defendants’ Motion For Application of Indiana
Law  is granted.
The parties also dispute whether Indiana and Illinois law differ regarding the collateral source rule
and the assignment of comparative fault. The Court declines to address these disputes now, in light
of its determination that Plaintiffs have failed to overcome the presumption that Indiana law
governs this action, discussed infra.
The facts relevant to this choice-of-law analysis are largely undisputed. The
accident took place in Indiana, the alleged injuries were sustained in Indiana, and
the conduct precipitating Plaintiffs’ injuries took place in Indiana.
 at 3.
Jackson is a resident of Illinois, Plaintiffs are citizens of Canada, and
Megabus had, at the time of the accident, its principal place of business in Illinois.2
 at 12-13.
Federal courts sitting in diversity apply the choice-of-law rules of the forum
state in which they sit. See, e.g., Dobbs v. DePuy Orthopedics, Inc., 842 F.3d 1045,
1048 (7th Cir. 2016); see also Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487,
496-97 (1941). This Court will accordingly apply Illinois choice-of-law principles.
The Most Significant Relationship Test
Illinois uses the most significant relationship test from the Restatement
(Second) of Conflict of Laws to resolve choice-of-law issues. See Suzik v. Sea-Land
Corp., 89 F.3d 345, 348 (7th Cir. 1996).
Under the Restatement, the Court
considers the following factors in personal injury cases: the place where the injury
occurred; the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred; the domicile,
Megabus contends that its principal place of business is no longer in Illinois, as the company
recently announced plans to eliminate “its Chicago hub and move its operations to Ohio and
Wisconsin.”  at 8. For the purposes of this Court’s analysis, however, the relevant consideration
is Megabus’s location at the time of the accident. See In re Air Crash Disaster Near Chicago, Illinois
on May 25, 1979, 644 F.2d 594, 617 (7th Cir. 1981) (The “probability of corporate moves after
misconduct is a major policy reason why the principal place of business at the time of the crash not
at the time of trial must be used. If the ‘time of trial’ rule were to prevail, defendants in ‘punitive’
states could always easily escape such damages by moving their corporate headquarters to a ‘nonpunitive’ state.”).
residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the parties;
and the place where the relationship, if any, between the parties is centered. See
Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 145 (1971).
Ultimately, “a strong presumption exists that the law of the place of injury”
governs personal injury actions. See Townsend v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 879 N.E.2d
893, 905 (Ill. 2007) (emphasis in original). This presumption “may be overcome only
by showing a more or greater significant relationship to another state.” Id. at 903
(emphasis in original); see also Spinozzi v. ITT Sheraton Corp., 174 F.3d 842, 844
(7th Cir. 1999) (In “the absence of unusual circumstances, the highest scorer on the
‘most significant relationship’ test” is “the place where the tort occurred.”);
Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 145 cmt. e (1971) (“When the injury
occurred in a single, clearly ascertainable state and when the conduct which caused
the injury also occurred there, that state will usually be the state of the applicable
law with respect to most issues involving the tort.”).
Indiana Law Governs This Action
Plaintiffs implicitly concede that they were injured in Indiana, and that the
allegedly tortious conduct took place in Indiana.
See supra at 1.
nevertheless suggest that this Court should apply Illinois law to this case, pursuant
to two cases from this district: Smith v. I-Flow Corp., 753 F. Supp. 2d 744 (N.D. Ill.
2010) and Curtis v. TransCor Am., LLC, No. 10-cv-4570, 2012 WL 1080116 (N.D. Ill.
Mar. 29, 2012). Neither case, however, is availing here.
Smith actually reiterates that under Illinois law, the “two most significant
contacts in a tort case are the place where the injury occurred and the place where
the conduct causing the injury occurred.” Smith, 753 F. Supp. 2d at 747-48. The
court in Smith was forced to look beyond these traditional factors, however, since
the “injury in [that] case occurred in Michigan,” but the “conduct that caused the
injury” took place in California. Id. at 748. Only after identifying this discrepancy
did Smith turn to California’s particular interest in imposing its law regarding
punitive damages and thereby “regulating the conduct of its resident corporations.”
Id. at 749.
Curtis featured a similarly complex factual context. 2012 WL 1080116, at *1.
The plaintiff in Curtis initiated a wrongful death action after his father, a federal
prisoner, died of heatstroke while being transported from Kansas to Indiana. Id.
The location of plaintiff’s injury “was at least somewhat fortuitous, which lessens
the weight the court places on the site of the injury as a factor in determining which
state’s punitive damages law to apply,” and the conduct causing the injury arguably
occurred in at least three different states. Id. at *6-7. These unique circumstances
compelled the court to look beyond the traditionally dispositive factors. Id.
The instant case is considerably simpler than Curtis or Smith: Plaintiffs’
injury occurred in Indiana, and the conduct causing their injury took place in
Indiana. As Smith acknowledges, the Court’s task is straightforward when these
factors point in the same direction. See Smith, 753 F. Supp. 2d at 747-48 (noting
that where “both of the most significant contacts pointed, at least partly, toward the
place of injury,” there was “no persuasive argument to rebut the presumption in
favor of applying that state’s law”).
Ultimately, there are no “unusual
circumstances” here that justify a deviation from the “strong” presumption that the
location of the injury and the location of the conduct causing the injury are
controlling. Townsend, 879 N.E.2d at 905 (emphasis in original).
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ motion for application of Indiana law
Dated: March 1, 2017
John Robert Blakey
United States District Judge
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