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Baltimore & Towson Lawyer Discusses Inter-spousal Immunity

Written by Amar Weisman » September 18, 2014 »

For many years, spouses were prohibited from suing each other in the state of Maryland. This was because of a common law doctrine known as "interspousal immunity." Initially back in the early '80s, the doctrine was abrogated in the state with respect to negligence cases, but spouses were still allowed to use the doctrine as a defense in intentional tort cases. However, as your Baltimore and Towson divorce lawyer will tell you, interspousal immunity has since been abolished in all cases. Now under Maryland law, spouses are no longer barred from suing each other.

The History of Interspousal Immunity

At common law, the doctrine of interspousal immunity was based on the concept that, under the law, husbands and wives became one person by virtue of their marriages. In essence, what that meant was that in the eyes of the law, a woman's "legal existence" was suspended while she was married, and it was consolidated into the husband's existence, as she performed everything under the husband's "wing and protection."

Along with the union of individuals came certain "consequences." For instance, if a wife were to suffer injury, either to herself or her property, she would not be allowed to seek redress for her injuries unless her husband agreed to it. That meant that any suit brought must have been in his name, as well as hers, and in the alternative, the woman could not be sued without the husband being included on the suit as a defendant.

The Doctrine's Abolishment

As noted above, prior to the doctrine's abolishment, Maryland spouses were only permitted to sue each other in cases that involved "negligent" or "outrageous" acts. But as your Baltimore and Towson divorce lawyer knows, things changed for women. With the passage of the Married Woman's Act in 1898, married women's rights changed, and today, women have their own legal rights that are separate, apart and equal to those of their spouses. Maryland's law now notes that, "a married woman has the right to hold her property for her separate use; sue on a contract made with her husband, and sue for any tort committed against her." 

Spouses are now permitted to sue each other for any injuries sustained, including injuries that were incurred as a result of domestic violence and/or stalking. With the decision rendered in the case of Bozman v. Bozman, 830 A. 2d 450 (2003), Maryland joined most of the other states throughout the U.S. in abolishing interspousal immunity, and the Court of Appeals of Maryland noted in its opinion that "interpersonal immunity is unsound in the circumstances of modern life….it is a vestige of the past." For a number of years, many states held onto the doctrine in part because of the possibility that couples may attempt to defraud insurance companies with respect to injuries that might have occurred accidentally and in part out of concern that allowing negligence suits would lead to an influx of litigation with regard to every type of domestic dispute imaginable. Nevertheless, some states still recognize the doctrine with respect to certain negligence-based torts.

If you have questions or concerns about your ability to sue your spouse in Maryland, contact a Baltimore and Towson divorce lawyer at the Law Offices of Amar Weisman, LLC today for more information.

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Call The Law Offices of Amar S. Weisman at (410) 321-4994 to schedule a Free ConsultationThe Purpose of the consultation is to determine whether you want to retain this law firm as your Baltimore County & Harford County Family Lawyer. If you do wish to proceed, then you must pay a retainer. See Our Policy on Fees and Costs. The family firm is located next to The Circuit Court for Baltimore County, at 1018 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson, MD 21204.