Nolan v. Transocean Air Lines

PETITIONER: Nolan
RESPONDENT: Transocean Air Lines
LOCATION: Annette Islands, Alaska

DOCKET NO.: 107
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 365 US 293 (1961)
ARGUED: Jan 12, 1961 / Jan 16, 1961
DECIDED: Feb 20, 1961

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Nolan v. Transocean Air Lines

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 16, 1961 in Nolan v. Transocean Air Lines

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 12, 1961 in Nolan v. Transocean Air Lines

Earl Warren:

Number 107, Robert F. Nolan, Administrator, et al., versus Transocean Air Lines.

Mr. Dwyer.

Robert A. Dwyer:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

Petitioners brought this case to this Court because -- although they never reached majority, the federal court of New York held that they were barred by the Statute of Limitations.

This action is a wrongful death action.

It's brought for the wrongful death of Lucia who was killed in a crash of an aircraft in California.

The defendant, Transocean, owned and operated the aircraft.

Jurisdiction is based upon diversity of citizenship.

The action was brought in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.

The defendant moved to dismiss from the ground that the action that was barred by the Statute of Limitations.

The District Court granted judgment dismissing and the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

The defendant's contentions on the Statute of Limitations are roughly as -- briefly as -- as follows, "Section 13 of the New York Civil Practice Act, provides in effect of that a nonresident who brings a cause of -- brings an action based on a cause of action that arises outside of New York, is barred if they would be barred in the State where the cause of action arose."

Section 13 expressly accepts from that provision residents of New York.

The courts of New York have consistently held that in effect, the purpose of Section 13 was to prevent nonresidents coming into New York, suing in New York, if at the time they sued in New York, they could not have brought the action in the State or the cause of action arose.

In other words, New York courts do not merely adopt the time limit of the State where the cause of action arose.

It's a mere yardstick that they apply all of the law of the other State to determine in -- in effect could this plaintiff have brought her action in the State where the cause of action arose, if they couldn't, they cannot come in here.

Applying this reasoning, the District Court and the Circuit Court looked to California, the State where the cause of action arose, here.

They first referred to Section 340 of the California Code of Civil Procedure which provides that an action for wrongful death must be brought within one year.

The Court then looked to the tolling provision in California which is Section 352 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, which provides that the Statute of Limitations shall be tolled during minority or during the time of disability.

Reasoning of that -- or the defendant then urged rather that Section 25 of the Civil Code of California, applied in this case.

They argued vastly that Section 25, which I would describe as a --a capacity statute as it existed at the time of -- of the death or the -- the time of cause of action arose here, provided that a female who was married at age 18 should be deemed an adult and should be deemed an adult person for the purpose of engaging in transactions respecting property.

Now, the respondent cited two cases to the court below.

Two California cases that are cited in both of our briefs, the Haro case and the Caraway case, which construed Section 25 to mean that -- that this phrase engaged in transactions respecting property, gave a married female, age 18, a capacity to sue.

And therefore, at 18, the disability of infancy seized and therefore, the Statute of Limitation should commence to run.

And in both cases, the Haro case and the Caraway case, which involved residents of California, the Court did dismiss because the -- in both cases, the -- the female had brought the action after she reached the age 19.

We argued -- we argued here, Your Honor, that there was two cases in California which indicated that California would not apply these cases to a nonresident, a noncitizen of California.

The cases are cited Deason against Jones and Emery against Emery.

In both of these cases, the California Court, in the Emery case, the California Supreme Court applied the rule of the domicile to determine whether or not, plaintiffs had a capacity to sue.

Correction, in the Emery case, that was the specific (Inaudible)

The Deason case, the problem was a little different, but was related.