Gager v. White

53 N.Y.2d 475, 442 N.Y.S.2d 463, 425 N.E.2d 851 (1981)

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Gager v. White

New York Court of Appeals
53 N.Y.2d 475, 442 N.Y.S.2d 463, 425 N.E.2d 851 (1981)

Facts

Linda Gager and four other New Yorkers (victims) (plaintiffs) were injured in separate car accidents outside New York. The victims or their estates each sued non-New Yorkers (drivers) (defendants) who allegedly were responsible for the accidents in New York state court. Each driver was covered by liability insurance issued by a New York-based carrier. The victims asserted that New York courts had quasi-in-rem jurisdiction due to the insurance policies. In two cases, the drivers expressly challenged the propriety of quasi-in-rem jurisdiction. In two other cases, the drivers objected that the courts did not have in personam jurisdiction but did not expressly attack quasi-in-rem jurisdiction. In the fifth case, the driver did not raise any jurisdictional argument. New York’s exercise of quasi-in-rem jurisdiction would have been proper under a 1966 decision by this court. However, in 1980, while the victims’ cases were pending, the United States Supreme Court held that the exercise of quasi-in-rem jurisdiction based solely on the location of an insurer violated due process. Citing the Supreme Court’s decision, the drivers each moved to dismiss the complaints on jurisdictional grounds. The New York supreme court denied the motions in all five cases. The appellate division affirmed in the case in which the driver asserted no jurisdictional defense but reversed in the other cases. The parties all appealed. Among other things, the victims argued that the Supreme Court’s decision should not be applied retroactively because the victims relied on the availability of quasi-in-rem jurisdiction in New York, and their claims might now be time-barred in other forums.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Fuchsberg, J.)

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