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MacDonald v. General Motors Corp.
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
110 F.3d 337 (1997)
Several members of the debate team of the University of Kansas (the university) (defendant) were traveling in a General Motors Corporation (GM) (defendant) van on a highway in Tennessee on the way to Georgia for a tournament when they were involved in an accident. The van’s driver, Philip Voight (defendant), a university graduate student, lost control of the van while trying to avoid hitting a deer, killing David MacDonald, paralyzing Peter Cannistra (plaintiff), and significantly injuring Ofray Hall and Susan Stanfield (plaintiffs). The van was purchased, owned, and maintained by a Kansas organization. The passengers were residents of Kansas, but MacDonald was domiciled in North Dakota, where he had lived before going to the university and where his parents lived. There was no evidence MacDonald had intended to abandon his North Dakota domicile. MacDonald’s estate (the MacDonalds) (plaintiff), Cannistra, Hall, and Stanfield (collectively, the passengers) filed suit against the university, Voight, and other university employees in a Tennessee federal court, later adding claims against GM, alleging among other things that the van was defectively designed in Michigan. The passengers’ claims against GM went to trial, and the jury found that GM was liable but only 1 percent at fault. The district court applied Kansas law, limiting nonpecuniary damages to $100,000. The MacDonalds appealed, arguing that North Dakota law, with no limit on damages, applied.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Martin, C.J.)
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