Brief Fact Summary. Appellant brought suit against her husband for injuries that occurred to her while the husband was driving. She brought suit in South Carolina, but because the injury occurred in Georgia, Georgia’s interspousal immunity law was applicable.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. South Carolina refused to enforce Georgia’s interspousal immunity law on public policy grounds because it was based on outdated legal theory and the modern reasons for its continuance were untenable.
Issue. Does Georgia’s interspousal immunity from personal injury actions violate the public policy of South Carolina?
Held. Because the Georgia’s interspousal immunity is contrary to natural justice, a wife is not precluded from maintaining an action for personal injury against her husband.
Interspousal immunity is a common la doctrine based on the legal fiction that husband and wife share the husband’s identity. However, passage of the Married Women’s Property Acts destroyed this “unity of persons.” Very few jurisdictions now recognize interspousal tort immunity.
One argument in favor of continued immunity is the concern that suits between spouses would be fictitious and fraudulent, particularly against insurance companies. But there is no reason to presume that married couples are more likely than others to engage in collusive action.
The other argument in favor of immunity is concern that interspousal suits would destroy domestic harmony. However, the Court finds that marital harmony is promoted by allowing the negligent spouse to provide for the injured spouse.
South Carolina applies the law of the stat in which the injury occurred, or the lex loci delicti. However, foreign law is not followed when it is against the good morals or natural justice of the state.
Discussion. The Court refused to apply Georgia law even though it would normally have been applicable in this action because it felt that the law was against the State’s public policy.