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Walton v. Arabian American Oil Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
233 F.2d 541 (1956)


Facts

Leo Walton (plaintiff), an Arkansas citizen and resident, was injured in a vehicle collision in Saudi Arabia. The other vehicle was owned by Arabian American Oil Co. (Aramco) (defendant) and driven by one of its employees. Aramco was a Delaware corporation licensed to do business in New York. On May 10, 1949, Walton filed suit against Aramco for negligence in a federal district court in New York. The complaint did not plead Saudi law. During pretrial hearings, discussions were held concerning proof of Saudi law. Prior to trial in 1953, the judge suggested that the plaintiff seek an adjournment to prepare proof of foreign law. Plaintiff’s counsel declined to seek an adjournment and stated that no proof of foreign law would be offered. At trial, plaintiff took the position that New York law applied. Plaintiff’s counsel stated in argument that Saudi Arabia had “no law or legal system” but provided no evidence to support that argument. Aramco did not refer to foreign law in its defense. At the close of trial, the judge directed a verdict for Aramco on the ground that Walton had failed to prove Saudi law, an essential element of his case. The judge specifically stated that he would not take judicial notice of Saudi law. Walton appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Frank, J.)

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