Many spouses are unaware laws allow one spouse to take another to court over injury claims. Marital torts are permitted under circumstances dictated by state laws. To be clear, marital torts are claims outside divorce actions, although some states allow the two issues to be resolved simultaneously during the dissolution of a marriage.
A marital tort took place in Louisiana, where a wife sued her husband for giving her herpes. The wife discovered she had contracted the sexually-transmitted disease during a gynecological appointment. The husband later admitted he cheated on his spouse, knew about the STD and feared disclosing the information to his wife.
The wife filed for a divorce and a separate civil claim. The state supreme court ordered a $125,000 damage award. Infecting a spouse with an STD is not the only reason for filing a marital tort.
Victims of domestic violence, including Battered Women’s Syndrome and emotional abuse, may file marital torts against a spouse. Claims for compensation also may be filed for other reasons like wiretapping or invasion of privacy. Spouses have not always had the option to take this kind of legal action.
Interspousal immunity laws once prevented marital civil suits. The legal tide changed during cases in the 1960s and 1970s, when courts began to decide old rules were based on antiquated laws that placed wives in the same category as property.
Some marital tort laws contain restrictions about when a claim is appropriate to file. Some states allow claims during and after marriage or insist that torts are filed at the time of a divorce. Statutes of limitation or claim expiration dates also are set.
As with other liability lawsuits, accusers in marital tort cases are responsible for presenting evidence to support a claim. A Louisiana divorce attorney can discuss the possibilities of a marital tort and advise spouses how and when to proceed when a claim is valid.