Definition of lex loci delicti commissi
The lex loci delicti commissi is the Latin term for "law of the place where the delict [tort] was committed" in the conflict of laws. Conflict of laws is the branch of law regulating all lawsuits involving a "foreign" law element where a difference in result will occur depending on which laws are applied.
The term is often shortened to lex loci delicti.
When a case comes before a court and the parties and the causes of action are local, the court will apply the lex fori, the prevailing municipal law, to decide the case. However, if there are "foreign" elements to the case, the forum court may be obliged under the conflict of laws to consider the following issues:
- It adjudicates whether the forum court has jurisdiction to hear the case;
- It subsequently applies the choice of law rules to decide the lex causae, that is, which law is to be applied to each cause of action.
The lex loci delicti commissi is one of the possible choice of law rules applied to cases arising from an alleged tort. For example, if a person domiciled in Australia exchanges correspondence by e-mail with a resident in Albania - alleged to defame a group of Kurds resident in Turkey - the relevant choice of law rules would be:
- The lex loci solutionis (law of the place where relevant performance occurs) might be the most relevant, but it leaves the laws of Australia, Albania, and Turkey equally applicable. That is, the parties corresponded from two states but the damage was not sustained until the correspondence was published in Turkey;
- The proper law is the law which has the closest connection with the alleged misconduct; and
- The lex fori which might have public policy issues if, for example, one of the parties was an infant, or multiple jurisdictions may be involved over global internet use.
Reasoning for applicability
In a case where a US citizen on vacation in Mexico was injured when he fell into a hotel construction excavation (while climbing a mound of dirt to obtain a better view of the construction activity), he attempted to sue the hotel's owners in a US court. The US court rejected the suit, asserting lex loci delicti. The man appealed the trial court's finding, but the appeals court sided with the trial court. The appeals court judge (Judge Posner) supported his decision with a vigorous explanation of why the lex loci rule should apply: "The jurisdiction in which the accident occurs] is the place that has the greatest interest in striking a reasonable balance among safety, cost, and other factors pertinent to the design and administration of a system of tort law. Most people affected whether as victims or as injurers by accidents and other injury-causing events are residents of the jurisdiction in which the event takes place. So if law can be assumed to be generally responsive to the values and preferences of the people who live in the community that formulated the law, the law of the place of the accident can be expected to reflect the values and preferences of the people most likely to be involved in accidents . . ."
Two Harvard University law professors examined the judge's reasoning, and while agreeing with it in principle, articulated several different points of rationale for applying local law to local incidents:
- Under the economic theory of accident law, compensatory damages should be relative to the social harm caused by an accident, and that level of harm can best be determined by application of the local laws governing that area;
- The perceived economic value of life and limb varies from state to state;
- The optimal amount of medical care for an injured person (and thus the required cash compensation) will vary from state to state;
- Specific standards of precautions against particular classes of injuries or accidents will differ between states, because of differences in population density, climatic factors, economic factors, differing perceptions of risk etc.
- Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.