Case Studies: Appeals
Mesa, AZ personal injury attorney Robert L. Greer talks about persuading the courts to eliminate an old law stating that one spouse is not allowed to sue the other.
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I represented a good friend who is an attorney who represented himself in a claim arising from the near drowning of a toddler he had. For just a moment his wife lost track of this little boy who got into their pool. She pulled him out, resuscitate him but he was left with severe brain damage.
Because the husband, the dad had a liability policy over and above his homeowner’s policy that would help take care of that boy for his short life to come he filed suit against his wife not in a mean-spirited way or not to get any blame, in order to trigger insurance liability coverage.
The trial court dismissed the claim based on an Arizona law that says you can’t have one spouse sue the other. I offered to take that on appeal because I thought the time was right to change the law because that old law that you shouldn’t sue a spouse was based on wanting to preserve the marriage and not having this sort of rancor that might happen. Well the advent of insurance coverage sort of eliminated that.
And so, we went to the Court of Appeals and then the Arizona Supreme Court to persuade them that the times had changed. That because of the availability of liability insurance that the family unit really is not destroyed by litigation between the two because insurance companies will represent the spouse who is sued. The system will take care of any potential collusion or fraud or that sort of thing. Good lawyering sniffs that out and helps avoid that.
We persuaded the Arizona Supreme Court to adopt a reasonable parent standard. That is even a driver or a homeowner or someone who injures their spouse or one of their children the last thing they want to do is to want to see them go without compensation. And so, the Supreme Court said we change the law and if you act as an unreasonable parent and cause a child injury the child gets to sue the negligent parent. That only happens, of course, if there’s insurance involved.