South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Stare Decisis Does Not Prevent Antiquated Rules From Being Abandoned
Description Maryland appeals court held that the old rule that a spouse could not sue another spouse in tort, except in very limited cases, was antiquated and not in compliance with current social norms. As such, the old rule is abandoned. Stare decisis is wise policy, but does not mean that rules can never be changed.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Interspousal Immunity; Stare Decisis; Antiquated Rules
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts William and Nancie Bozman were separated prior to their divorce. During the separation, Nancie complained to the police that William was stalking and harassing her in violation of a protective order she had obtained against him. He was arrested and charged with violating the order. William then sued Nancie for malicious prosecution, contending that her complaints to the police against him were without merit and were a part of her strategy in the divorce proceedings. The trial court dismissed his suit under the doctrine of interspousal immunity, which prohibits one spouse from suing the other in tort, except in certain cases of outrageous intentional torts. William appealed.
Decision

Reversed and remanded. Stare decisis is the doctrine of precedent under which it is necessary for a court to follow earlier judicial decisions when the same points arise again under litigation. It is useful because it promotes certainty and stability in common law litigation. However, the interspousal immunity doctrine is an antiquated rule of law that runs counter to prevailing societal norms and, therefore, has outlived its usefulness. As such, the interspousal immunity doctrine is abrogated. Adherence to precedence is wise policy, but it is not an inexorable command. Courts find it advisable at various times to correct the law or make it more applicable due to changed social circumstances. Other states have abrogated the old rule; Maryland now does too.

Citation Bozman v. Bozman, --- A.2d --- (2003 WL 21915874, Ct. App., Md., 2003)

Back to Court Procedure Listings

©1997-2003  SW Legal Studies in Business. All Rights Reserved.