Interspousal Tort Immunity Doctrine
Interspousal tort immunity is a doctrine that precludes tort actions between married individuals. The doctrine has common-law roots. The doctrine is based on the theory that a married couple is a single entity. In the early 1900s, wives were considered the property of their husbands; therefore, they were not permitted to sue their husbands. Obviously now this is no longer the case.
Many states have abolished the doctrine of interspousal tort immunity with respect to the commission of intentional torts such as assault and battery and conversion of chattel. Some states have enacted severe limitations on the interspousal tort immunity doctrine.
Some states have the doctrine in place with respect to negligence claims. The states have retained this in an attempt to deter collusion to defraud insurance companies for injuries that arose as a result of an accidental occurrence. Additionally, permitting negligence actions against spouses may create a lot of unnecessary litigation.
Even states that have abolished the doctrine of interspousal tort immunity have attempted to retain some inchoate marital privilege to bar interspousal suits for some conduct that would be considered tortious if committed by someone other than their spouse.
States that have retained the interspousal tort immunity doctrine with respect to certain actions include:
- Louisiana — has the doctrine completely in place
- Rhode Island — abolished the doctrine for vehicular torts and cases of intervening death
- Georgia — abolished the doctrine for cases of intervening death
- Delaware — abolished the doctrine for negligent tort cases
- Idaho — abolished the doctrine for intentional and vehicular torts
- Nevada — abolished the doctrine for vehicular torts
- Vermont — abolished the doctrine for vehicular torts
- Oregon — abolished the doctrine for intentional torts
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