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Darrow v. Hanover Twp. - 58 N.J. 410, 278 A.2d 200 (1971)

Rule:

The Immer rule, abrogating the doctrine of interspousal immunity in automobile negligence cases, is available only to persons suffering injuries in automobile accidents occurring after July 10, 1970, the date Immer was decided. 

Facts:

Plaintiff husband hit a tree while operating an automobile, causing injuries to himself and plaintiff wife, who was a passenger. Thereafter, plaintiffs filed suit against defendant county alleging that the tree projected into the road and there was no warning of the danger. Defendant filed a counterclaim for contribution against plaintiff husband. Plaintiff husband answered raising the defense of interspousal immunity. The trial court denied the motion and permitted the counterclaim to stand, holding that the Immer rule abrogating interspousal immunity in automobile negligence cases was retrospective and that interspousal immunity could no longer be pleaded. 

Issue:

Was the Immer rule available only to persons suffering injuries in automobile accidents occurring after July 10, 1970, the date Immer was decided?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

On review, plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in retrospectively applying the rule. The reviewing court reversed. The court ruled that the Immer rule was available only to persons suffering injuries in automobile accidents occurring after July 10, 1970, the date Immer was decided. Because plaintiffs' accident occurred prior to that date, defendant's counterclaim was barred. The court noted that prospectivity would permit the courts to introduce an important change in the law with minimal disruption.

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