Shortly after marrying Pursuer Jean Colville, David Lauder left Scotland under indenture to work on the island of St. Vincent. He subsequently traveled to New York and then to Canada, where he drowned while bathing in the Saint Lawrence River. Before his death, David sent a bill for £200 to his father, Defender William Lauder, with instructions to secure the money in case of David’s return to Scotland. David wrote that if he was not heard from again, “the money is either at [William’s] or my dear mother’s disposal.” William Lauder kept the money after David’s death, and Jean Colville brought suit to secure a share of it. The legal dispute turned on a choice of law issue: whether the Pursuer’s claim was governed by the law of Scotland or the law of England, which regulated British territories. Under Scots law, Jean Colville would be entitled to half of David Lauder’s moveable estate as her jus relictae—a widow’s right in the movable estate of her deceased spouse. Under English law, a valid will could exclude the widow from any share of the movable estate. The parties agreed that succession was governed by the law of the decedent’s domicile but disputed where David Lauder was domiciled at the time of his death. The pursuer argued that David was domiciled in Scotland, where he intended to return, while the defender argued that David had established a domicile abroad.

Published Reports

William Morison, The Decisions of the Court of Session (1811), pg. 1