Taylor v. Patten

In Taylor v. Patten, 2 Utah 2d 404, 275 P.2d 696 (Utah 1954) the Court first considered whether interspousal immunity was consistent with the Married Women's Act. In a 3-2 decision, the Court allowed a wife's intentional tort claim against her husband. The Court held that "under modern Husband and Wife statutes, such as ours, the fiction of coverture has been completely eliminated and the wife has been completely emancipated from this inability to own, control and manage her property, and from her inability to sue and be sued for the protection of her property and personal rights." In the lead opinion, two members of the majority concluded as follows: "From the foregoing it is clear that the legislature intended to establish the separate identity of the husband and wife in all property and personal rights the same as if they were not married. Giving these statutes a liberal construction to effect their objects and in the interest of justice requires us to hold that a wife can sue and be sued the same as if she were unmarried, even for the recovery of damages from her husband for intentional personal injury." Justice Crockett limited his concurrence to the facts of the case--that the intentional tort occurred while the parties' divorce action was pending--and "reserved judgment as to the more comprehensive proposition that such a suit could be maintained at any time during the marriage relation." Justice Crockett discussed the two primary justifications for interspousal immunity: the dangers of marital discord and collusive lawsuits. He noted "that these factors upon which the policy of interspousal immunity is based are either non-existent, or at least not nearly so cogent during the interlocutory period of a pending divorce." In Taylor, the majority emphasized that the broad assertion in the first sentence of section 30-2-4 means that a wife has a general right to prosecute "all actions" for the preservation of her rights.