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In Vermont, a wife's remedy for disruption of the marriage relationship is restricted to wrongs directly inflicted upon the marital obligation. Other wrongful acts which have indirectly accomplished this result, although done intentionally against the husband, are not actionable at the suit of the wife.
The plaintiffs are husband and wife. The husband, Harold Baldwin, Sr., sues to recover for personal injuries sustained when the motor truck he was operating was struck by a railway locomotive, operated by the defendants, at a highway crossing. His complaint sets forth various duties owing from the defendants failure to use reasonable care for his safety and others in approaching grade crossing where the accident occurred. He complains that the defendants disregarded their several duties to him in approaching the crossing at an excessive speed and without proper warning to motorists using the crossing and especially to this plaintiff. There are other allegations that the defendants failed to maintain the railroad crossing in a safe condition for the protection of persons using the highway and especially the plaintiff who was unable to extricate himself and his vehicle from the crossing. There is no allegation that Mrs. Baldwin was with her husband at the time of the accident. The standing of the plaintiff, Beatrice Baldwin, is based entirely on her claim that she is the wife of her co-plaintiff and that, as a result of the negligence of the defendants, she has been deprived of the consortium of her husband, the plaintiff, Harold Baldwin, Sr., to her damage in the amount of $ 25,000. The trial court dismissed the complaint of Mrs. Baldwin on motion of the defendants. On application of the plaintiffs the cause was passed to this Court to review that ruling before judgment, as provided in 12 V.S.A. § 2386.
In Vermont, is a wife's remedy for disruption of the marriage relationship restricted to wrongs directly inflicted upon the marital obligation?
The court noted that in Vermont a wife's remedy for disruption of the marriage relationship was restricted to wrongs directly inflicted upon the marital obligation. Other wrongful acts that indirectly accomplished this result were not actionable by the wife. Plaintiffs called upon the court to overrule such prevailing law as a proper exercise of the judicial function. The court refused to do so. It held that for the wife's action to stand, she had to establish a breach of duty owing to her alone. The complaint alleged only a duty owing from defendants to use reasonable care for the safety of the husband. No violation of duty to the wife was expressed. The complaint also failed to allege any facts to establish how the wife's interest in the marriage had been invaded. It was not an inevitable legal consequence that bodily injury to the husband would deprive the wife of her husband's marital assistance, companionship, and affection.