Brief Fact Summary. A negligence claim combined with a cross-claim for contribution arose out of a car accident between the Appellee, Dreslin (Appellee) and the Appellant, Yellow Cab Co. (Appellant). A declaratory judgment allowed Appellant to receive contribution for several judgments against Appellee, except for contribution for injuries sustained by Appellee’s wife, Mrs. Dreslin.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. In order to receive contribution, joint liability must be present.
The rule hinges on the doctrine that general principles of justice require that in the case of a common obligation, the discharge of it by one of the obligors without proportionate payment from the other, gives the latter an advantage to which he is not equitably entitled.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Is contribution disallowed from a husband for damages claimed by his wife due to a lack of joint liability between the husband and the other tortfeasor as to the wife?
Held. Yes. Judgment affirmed.
* Based on common law, neither husband nor wife is liable for tortious acts by one against the other. The right of contribution arises out of a common liability. In order to obtain contribution, the injured plaintiff from which the right of contribution develops, must have a valid cause of action against the party from whom contribution is sought. Because the plaintiff could not bring a valid cause of action against her husband, no joint liability occurs and the Appellant has no right to contribution.
Discussion. The common law rule that husband and wife cannot bring tortious claims against one another is based on public policy considerations of preserving “domestic peace and felicity.”