NEVADA V. HALL, 440 U. S. 410 (1979)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Nevada v. Hall, 440 U.S. 410 (1979)

Nevada v. Hall

No. 77-1337

Argued November 7, 1978

Decided March 5, 1979

440 U.S. 410


Respondents, California residents, brought this suit in a California court for damages against petitioner State of Nevada and others for injuries respondents sustained when a Nevada-owned vehicle on official business collided on a California highway with a vehicle occupied by respondents. After the California Supreme Court, reversing the trial court, held Nevada amenable to suit in the California courts, Nevada, on the basis of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Federal Constitution, unsuccessfully invoked a Nevada statute limiting to $25,000 any tort award against the State pursuant to its statutory waiver of sovereign immunity. Following trial, damages were awarded respondents for $1,150,000, and the judgment in their favor was affirmed on appeal.

Held: A State is not constitutionally immune from suit in the courts of another State. Pp. 440 U. S. 414-427.

(a) The doctrine that no sovereign may be sued in its own courts without its consent does not support a claim of immunity in another sovereign's courts. Pp. 440 U. S. 414-418.

(b) The need for constitutional protection against one State's being sued in the courts of another State was not discussed by the Framers, and nothing in Art. III authorizing the judicial power of the United States or in the Eleventh Amendment limitation on that power provides any basis, explicit or implicit, for this Court to limit the judicial powers that California has exercised in this case. Pp. 440 U. S. 418-421.

(c) The Full Faith and Credit Clause does not require a State to apply another State's law in violation of its own legitimate public policy. Pacific Ins. Co. v. Industrial Accident Comm'n, 306 U. S. 493. Here California, which has provided by statute for jurisdiction in its courts over residents and nonresidents alike to allow those negligently injured on its highways to secure full compensation for their injuries in California courts, is not required to surrender jurisdiction to Nevada or to limit respondents' recovery to the $25,000 Nevada statutory maximum. Pp. 440 U. S. 421-424.

(d) The specific limitations that certain constitutional provisions such as Art. I, § 8, and Art. IV, § 2, place upon the sovereignty of the States do not imply that any one State's immunity from suit in the courts of

Page 440 U. S. 411

another State is anything more than a matter of comity, and nothing in the Constitution authorizes or obligates this Court to frustrate California's policy of fully compensating those negligently injured on its highways. Pp. 440 U. S. 424-427.

74 Cal.App. 3d 280, 141 Cal.Rptr. 439, affirmed.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J.,and REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 440 U. S. 427. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J.,joined, post, p. 440 U. S. 432.

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