FORBES et al.
AULD et al.
MCFADDEN, P. J., MCMILLIAN and GOSS, JJ.
MCFADDEN, PRESIDING JUDGE.
question before us is whether this action for wrongful death
and personal injury is time barred. That question turns on
choice of law. As for the wrongful death claim, if we apply
the law of the country of Belize, where the death occurred,
the claim is barred. If we apply the law of Georgia, the
forum where this action was filed, it is timely. We hold that
the law of Georgia applies to the wrongful death claim
because the Belizean law governing wrongful death claims
violates Georgia public policy. So we reverse the dismissal
of the wrongful death claim.
personal injury claim is based on the common law. Therefore,
the personal injury claim is governed by the general rule
that the statute of limitation of the forum state applies. So
we also reverse the dismissal of the personal injury claim.
facts relevant to this appeal are largely undisputed. On
February 13, 2016, 14-year-old Tomari Jackson drowned while
swimming in a river on a school trip to Monkey Bay Wildlife
Sanctuary in the country of Belize. His mother, Adell Forbes,
filed this action on March 24, 2017, against Monkey Bay, its
owner, Cobb County Government, Cobb County School District,
and the chaperones, some of whom were employed by the school
district at the time and some of whom were volunteers. Forbes
asserted claims for her son's personal injuries before
his death and for his wrongful death.
dismissed her claims against Cobb County Government, and the
trial court granted Cobb County School District's motion
to dismiss on the ground that it was immune from liability on
the basis of sovereign immunity. The trial court then granted
the remaining defendants' motions to dismiss, finding
that the teacher chaperones were entitled to official
immunity and that the one-year limitation period in the
Belize Law of Torts Act barred all of Forbes's claims
against all defendants. Law of Torts Act, Chapter 172, §
10 (2011). (The pertinent provisions of Belize's Law of
Torts Act are reproduced in the margin.)
filed this appeal, challenging the ruling that both claims
are time barred.
trial court's choice of law was a legal question,
Gentry v. Volkswagen of America, 238 Ga.App. 785,
786 (521 S.E.2d 13) (1999), which we review de novo.
Gateway Community Svc. Bd. v. Bonati, 346 Ga.App.
653 (816 S.E.2d 743) (2018).
general choice-of-law rule in Georgia is that "a tort
action is governed by the substantive law of the state [or
country] where the tort was committed," Dowis v. Mud
Slingers, Inc., 279 Ga. 808, 809 (621 S.E.2d 413) (2005)
(citation omitted), but that "statutes of limitation are
procedural in nature and are therefore governed by the law of
the forum state." Butts v. Thomas, 300 Ga.App.
639, 640 (686 S.E.2d 262) (2009) (citations omitted)
(physical precedent only). See Taylor v. Murray, 231
Ga. 852, 853 (204 S.E.2d 747) (1974) ("[I]t is well
settled that the [s]tatute of [l]imitation of the country,
or state, where the action is brought and the remedy is
sought to be enforced, controls, in the event of the conflict
of statutes of limitation."); Gray v.
Armstrong, 222 Ga.App. 392 (1) (474 S.E.2d 280) (1996)
("Under the rule of lex loci delicti, tort cases are
governed by the substantive law of the state where the tort
was committed. Under the rule of lex fori, procedural or
remedial questions are governed by the law of the forum, the
state in which the action is brought.") (punctuation and
citation omitted). So under the general rule, this action
would be governed by the substantive law of Belize and the
Georgia statute of limitation.
"where the limitation is established as a condition
precedent to the action by the statute which creates the
cause of action . . . the limitation is substantive, not
procedural, and is governed by the law of the state where the
tort was committed." Griffin v. Hunt Refining
Co., 292 Ga.App. 451, 453 (1) (664 S.E.2d 823) (2008)
(citations and punctuation omitted). Such is the case here
because the Law of Torts Act of Belize, which creates the
wrongful death cause of action, includes a 12-month
limitation period. Law of Torts Act, Chapter 172, § 10.
still not the end of our analysis, however. Our legislature
has enacted a public-policy exception to the enforcement of
The laws of other states and foreign nations shall have no
force and effect of themselves within this state further than
is provided by the Constitution of the United States and is
recognized by the comity of states. The courts shall enforce
this comity, unless restrained by the General Assembly, so
long as its ...