Proper law, its concepts, and doctrines normally apply or come into effect when there is a conflict of laws. The application of proper law could also occur when there is a dispute concerning more than one country, state, or body of law. Within a country, proper law helps to determine which branch or area of government settles the dispute. Among foreign governments, the law helps to decide which government or governing body should have jurisdiction over the conflict.
One situation when proper law is applicable is when two or more countries are concerned. If there is a dispute concerning goods for sale internationally, for example, most times the proper law is the law or laws of the seller's country. In other words, the jurisdiction is directed to the body of law of the seller, rather than the consumer.
These situations of conflict can be a complicated and difficult matter, because they nearly always involve several different parties of different areas and with different representation. It is possible that both bodies of law or governments feel that they should have jurisdiction. Conversely, both governments may feel that they are not responsible for settling a dispute in a particular area. There are conflicts of this sort because even within the branches of a government, policies and interpretations are different and thus, cases are handled and decided differently. Proper law determines under whose jurisdiction the conflict or case should be brought forth.
Proper law can also determine the validity of a case. The Doctrine of Proper Law functions by examining the actions and intentions of both parties in order to determine which law or law body will govern. As a general rule, the law takes into consideration the intentions of the party under question, how those intentions were expressed or implied, and also the most real or valid connection with the situation, conflict, or contract.
The hard facts of the conflict or dispute are also taken into account under proper law, including where any interaction, agreement, disagreement, or communication occurred, which language was used in communication or contracts, the flag or emblem of any ship or vehicle, the currency used, and the place of residence of any parties involved, including insurance companies or third parties. Proper law generally applies lex fori, in other words, the decision applies when a contract or dispute was performed rather than when a contract was created. The law is not divided or split unless under highly compelling and conflicting circumstances.