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Curtis v/s Wilcox: Case Analysis

Homegrown Relation is a growing topic of tort law that deals with a family's internal dynamics. The evolution of domestic relationships Because of the tortious ways that the nuclear family itself is behaved in order to create injury or hindrance, tort has had an influence on how relatives can congregate. It has also had an impact on how spouses, wives, children, and legitimate guardians are perceived as legitimate entities.

In the beginning, spouses and children were seen as possessions under traditional law and had limited liberties. According to tradition, a couple could not sue for tort. The Married Women's Property Act, of 1882, which allows married women to sue their significant others for protection and security of their property in the event of wrongdoing, has brought about the shift. The Married Women's Property Act of 1882 contains section 24 which lists the property that is really selected in daily life.

A wife will be unable to sue her better half in the event that he caused her injuries since a spouse may only bring a lawsuit against her partner for the defense and protection of her property. So, if the spouse were to damage her watch, she could claim for something somewhat similar, but if he had foolishly broken her legs, she would not have been able to bring any action. The spouse lacks any proper course of action for any experiences that his significant other may have.

Background
The plaintiff in the case of Curtis V Wilcox[1] goes by the name Vera Curtis who was single and on January 12th, 1947, traveled with the defendant in a motorcar. The defendant G.A. Wilcox negligently hit another car with his. Vera Curtis filed a writ petition against the defendant under the ground of negligence on 2nd May, 1947. But on the 26th of May 1947, the plaintiff and defendant got married.

Issue:
  • The main issue in the aforementioned case is whether a person can sue their spouse for Torts.
  • Whether section 12 of the married women's Property Act, 1882 will be applied in this case or not.
This was also a special case as the plaintiff sued the defendant before the commencement of their marital relationship.

Arguments
By plaintiff
The claim was for general damages that were for pain and suffering caused to her, special damages as harm to her property, and loss of earnings were done. They said that She has the right to pursue a claim against her husband for the security and protection of some of her separate property.

By defendant
The main plea that the defendant presented was that as the plaintiff had married the defendant she is now his spouse and hence could not proceed with a suit for tort. It was contended for the litigant that the trial of whether a right is a thing in real life is whether it is assignable, and dependence was put on s. 25 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, 1873, presently typified in s. 196 of the Law of Property Act, 1925, and sub-sections 38 and 45 of the Bankruptcy Act, 1914.

Judgment
"A claim by a wife against her husband for damages in respect of an ante-nuptial tort is a thing in action within the meaning of s. 24 of the Married Women's Property Act, 1882, and is, therefore, part of her separate property for the protection and security of which she is entitled to maintain an action against her husband in accordance with the provisions of s. 12 of the Act."

If the final sentence of the ruling is to be taken to mean either that a significant injury caused by negligence isn't just a personal wrongdoing or that a spouse can file a lawsuit against her significant other for such an injury when it occurs post-nuptially, then the final sentence is now considered to be completely submitted, incorrect, and obiter. The last passage is considered completely submitted, wrong, and obiter if it is to be understood that either a wife can bring a lawsuit against her better half for a substantial injury caused by negligence when it occurs post-nuptials, or that substantial injury caused by carelessness isn't just a personal wrong.

Importance
This judgment changed the ability of a spouse to sue. Prior to this, a wife will be unable to sue her better half in the event that he caused her injuries since a spouse may only bring a lawsuit against her partner for the defense and protection of her property. So, if the spouse were to damage her watch, she could claim for something somewhat similar, but if he had foolishly broken her legs, she would not have been able to bring any action.

The spouse lacks any proper course of action for any experiences that his significant other may have. In the unlikely event that the other life partner did something wrong, neither the wife nor the husband could bring a lawsuit against her better half. The Married Women's Property Act, 1882, which allows married women to sue their significant others for protection and security of their property in the event of wrongdoing, has brought about the shift.

Impact
A few developments in family law throughout the 1900s allowed women and children to operate as separate legal entities from their husbands or dad. But according to tradition, a couple could not sue for tort. It was in the case of Curtis versus Wilcox that the ruling of the landmark precedent Gotliffe v Edelston[2]was overruled and it was stated by the king's bench division understanding the case was wrongly judged and hence could not be considered as a good law.

It was further suggested in the arguments that it should be considered as superabundance, the words that have been mentioned in section 12 that are but except as aforesaid no husband or wife shall be entitled to sue the other for tort. In a way, it is correct, but they highlight the fact that the section is an exception to the common law rule, which otherwise still governs, and would still bar a married woman from filing a claim against her husband for solely personal reasons, such as to recover damages for libel and slander or assault.

End-Notes:
  1. [1948] 2 KB 478 CA
  2. [1930] 2 KB 378

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