Illinois Law Rules in Inter Spousal Immunity Claims

The third district court of appeals made an interesting decision concerning inter-spousal immunity. In Hand versus Hand, the parties were coming back from a vacation in Florida. In Indiana, they were involved in a one car accident where William was driving. Patricia, his wife got hurt. They filed suit in Illinois, where they lived.

Indiana has a statute which says that a person cannot sue their spouse for personal injury involving the operation motor vehicle accident. Illinois law does not have such a law. In Illinois spouses can sue one another. This is obviously a suit to get the insurance money.

The defendant, probably the insurance company, asked the court to dismiss the case because of the Indiana law. The trial court allowed the motion to dismiss, applied Indiana law, and dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal.

The appellate court disagreed and reversed the trial court. The appellate court said, regarding choice of law, the court applies the substance of tort law of the place where the accident occurred. However, this question was one of interspousal immunity, not a question of a tort itself. Rather, this is a question of a particular issue in tort. The appellate court cited the statement second of conflict of laws section 145 and 146 in its ruling.

The factors one uses to determine choice of law are:

  1. Which state has the most significant relationship to occurrence and parties
  2. Contacts including
    1. Place of injury
    2. Place of conduct that caused the injury
    3. Residence of parties
    4. Place of the relationship of the parties
  3. The courts evaluate these based on their relative importance with the case.

The court ruled that the Illinois courts must take into consideration several principals to determine whether or not to ply Indiana law or Illinois law regarding interspousal immunity. The courts considered the place of the injury occurred, where the cause of the injury occurred, the domicile of the parties, and the place of the relationship between the parties is centered. The appellate court concluded that Illinois law should apply, citing prior Illinois cases concerning this issue.

This is not a new issue. Choice of law questions come up frequently. It is interesting to see the courts apply it in this manner to limit the issue to one involving a single issue in a case, where the wreck occurred outside of Illinois.

If you have an accident case, Ackerman Law Office is willing to discuss it with you for free. We always give a free initial consultation before a client hires us. This allows us to explain the issues in the case to our client. We take negligence claims, like car wreck cases, on a contingent fee so our clients do not have to come up with any money at the start. We try to limit our case load, so we have time to do a great job for the clients we take. We always return client phone calls within 1 business day, usually within the same day or 24 hours.