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Characterization – Substance-Procedure Dichotomy which the cause of action is one which would not abate upon the death

Grant v. McAuliffe of their respective testators or intestates."

Traynor o Civil Code, section 956, provides that "A thing in action arising out of a
wrong which results in physical injury to the person shall not abate by
Plaintiffs, who are California residents, were injured in Arizona. The tortfeasor, who was reason of the death of the wrongdoer:
also from California, died. The plaintiffs sued the tortfeasor’s estate for damages. The trial o Causes of action for damage to property are maintainable against
court dismissed the case, citing Arizona law which does not allow actions based on tort to executors and administrators under section 574 of the Probate Code.
survive the death of the tortfeasor. This was reversed on appeal. The California SC o Decedent's estate is located in this state, and letters of administration
characterized the issue as a procedural issue instead of a substantive issue. were issued to defendant by the courts of this state. The responsibilities
of defendant, as administrator of Pullen's estate, for injuries inflicted by
Pullen before his death are governed by the laws of this state.
DOCTRINE o When, as in the present case, all of the parties were residents of this
Survival of causes of action should be governed by the law of the forum. Survival is not an state, and the estate of the deceased tortfeasor is being administered in
essential part of the cause of action itself but relates to the procedures available for the this state, plaintiff's right to prosecute their causes of action is governed
enforcement of the legal claim for damages. by the laws of this state relating to administration of estates.

FACTS The orders granting defendant's motions to abate are reversed, and the causes remanded
1. Plaintiffs were California residents. They were injured in Arizona when their car for further proceedings.
collided with a car driven by Pullen.
2. Pullen, also a California resident, died. McAuliffe was the administrator of his estate. OTHER NOTES
3. Plaintiffs brought suit against Pullen’s estate to recover for their injuries. Criticism:
4. McAuliffe filed a motion to dismiss based on Arizona law. - Decision was based on an erroneous characterization that was greatly influenced
5. Under Arizona law, a tort action which was not commenced before the death of the by “sympathy” factors
tortfeasor must be abated. - Another viewed it as a correct result which was arrived at using a dubious
6. Under California law, causes of action for negligent torts survive the death of the method
tortfeasor and may be maintained against the administrator/executor of the estate. - Currie: “Confronted with a situation in which the result dictated by the orthodox
7. Trial court granted MTD based on Arizona law. system of conflict of laws was manifestly absurd, and in which the just and
rational result was clear, the court availed itself of one of the several escape
ISSUE with HOLDING devices that are built into the system itself. It characterized the problem
1. Whether Arizona or California law applies – California differently, and the different characterization produced the result that had
- The problem in the present proceeding is not whether the survival statutes apply previously been recognized as the sound one.”
retroactively, but whether they are substantive or procedural for purposes of
conflict of laws.
- 'Substance' and 'procedure' are not legal concepts of invariable content and a DIGESTER: Sarah
statute or other rule of law will be characterized as substantive or procedural
according to the nature of the problem for which a characterization must be
- Since we find no compelling weight of authority for either alternative, we are free
to make a choice on the merits.
o Survival of causes of action should be governed by the law of the
o Survival is not an essential part of the cause of action itself but relates
to the procedures available for the enforcement of the legal claim for
o The question is one of the administration of decedents' estates, which
is a purely local proceeding.
- The problem here is whether the causes of action that these plaintiffs had against
Pullen before his death survive as liabilities of his estate.
o Section 573 of the Probate Code provides that "all actions founded
upon any liability for physical injury, death or injury to property, may be
maintained by or against executors and administrators in all cases in