March 19, 2019 Articles

California’s Choice-of-Law Jurisprudence and Its Application to Internet Fraud

Tracking the genesis of California’s choice-of-law analysis, the current state of the law, and how that analysis ought to apply in the relatively new realm of e-commerce cases.

By Jonathan Udell

The ancient Roman author Publius Syrus once wrote, “Divide the fire, and you will the sooner put it out.” As all class-action practitioners know, strength comes in numbers: With few class members, the risks of litigation frequently outweigh the rewards of a potential recovery. Challenges to nationwide classes, therefore, often determine the fate of putative class actions.

The Development of California’s Choice-of-Law Analysis: Toward a Perfect Circle?

For the first half of the twentieth century, courts across America typically resolved conflicts of law through resort to territorial rules. See Peter Hay et al., Conflict of Laws 18–24 (5th ed. 2010). Then, starting in the 1950s, California courts spearheaded what commentators refer to as a “judicial revolution” that shunned the formal application of territorial rules in favor of a “policy-oriented approach[ ] that consider[s] a variety of factors.” Michael H. Hoffheimer, “California’s Territorial Turn in Choice of Law,” 67 Rutgers U. L. Rev. 167, 167 (2015). 

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