California Court Refuses to Apply Iranian Law, in Part Because It Reflects Religious Ideology Rather Than Economic Interest
In Sabetian v. Fluor Enterprises, Inc., decided a week ago by the California Court of Appeal (Justices Feuer, Perluss & Segal), Houshang Sabetian worked in Iran from 1959 to 1979, as an Iranian citizen, for the National Iranian Oil Company. He claimed that asbestos exposure at the facility caused testicular mesothelioma, and because of that the loss of his right testicle; the jury agreed, and found that the defendants, who were involved in constructing the facility, were negligent.
One question was what law applied—the law of Iran, or the law of California, the state to which Sabetian eventually moved after the asbestos exposure took place. In McCann v. Foster Wheeler LLC (Cal. 2010), the California Supreme Court dealt with a similar situation but involving Oklahoma law, and concluded Oklahoma law applied:
In light of the relevant facts of this case, we conclude that a failure to apply Oklahoma law would significantly impair Oklahoma’s interest. The conduct for which plaintiff contends Foster Wheeler should be held liable—plaintiff’s alleged exposure to asbestos during the application of insulation to a boiler designed and manufactured by Foster Wheeler—occurred in Oklahoma in 1957, at a time when plaintiff was present in Oklahoma and was an Oklahoma resident. As already discussed, the circumstance that Foster Wheeler is not an Oklahoma company—the circumstance relied upon by the Court of Appeal—is not a persuasive basis for finding that the failure to apply Oklahoma law would not significantly impair Oklahoma’s interest. Oklahoma’s interest in the application of its statute of repose applies equally to out-of-state businesses that design improvements to real property located in Oklahoma and to Oklahoma businesses that design such improvements situated within that state.
But here the Court of Appeal refused to apply Iranian law, in this case the Iranian law of damages:
[D]efendants filed a declaration from Mahmoud Katirai, an Iranian lawyer and scholar of Iranian law. On the issue of compensatory damages for personal injury, Katirai opined, “Under Iranian law, [p]laintiffs’ remedies are limited to a statutory compensation (‘diyeh’) pre-determined by the legislature, plus financial damages such as medical expenses and loss o
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