Frummer v. Hilton Hotels International, Inc. – Case Brief
Frummer v. Hilton Hotels International, Inc., 304 N.Y.S.2d 335 (1969).
Facts: While staying as a guest at the Hilton in London, Frummer (P) slipped and fell in the shower and sustained serious injuries. Frummer brought suit against Hilton Hotels (D) under three theories: 1) failure to provide a rubber shower mat after a specific request; 2) failure to install grab bars in the shower; and 3) not constructing the bathtub to minimize the risk of falling. Hilton Hotels claimed in its defense that Frummer’s injuries were due to his own carelessness and offered expert testimony that it had done everything required under a reasonable standard.
The trial court instructed the jury that Frummer could not recover if it determined that he had been contributorily negligent. After the jury returned a verdict for Hilton Hotels, the court discovered sua sponte that English law recognizes comparative negligence, whereby a plaintiff who is found contributorily negligent may recover a judgment reduced in proportion to the plaintiff’s fault. Frummer entered motions to set aside the verdict and for a new trial.
Issue: Should a court order a new trial if it discovers sua sponte that a foreign law should have been used at trial but was not, if the use of that law would have affected the outcome of the case?
Holding and Rule: Yes. A court should order a new trial if it discovers sua sponte that a foreign law should have been used at trial but was not, if the use of that law would have affected the outcome of the case.
English law recognizes comparative negligence while New York law, which was read to the jury, does not. Frummer presented significant evidence of negligence on the part of Hilton Hotels and would have recovered under the correct English jury instruction for comparative negligence.
The trial court discovered the differences in law sua sponte and should have granted the new trial in the interests of justice. The accident took place in London and New York’s interest in seeing its own rule applied was outweighed by its interest in applying the English rule. To allow this judgment to stand would not conform to the interests of justice.
Disposition: Reversed and remanded.