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Law School Case Brief

Shook v. Crabb - 281 N.W.2d 616 (Iowa 1979)

Rule:

The court abrogates the doctrine of interspousal immunity in the jurisdiction of Iowa as it pertains to actions for personal injury that was the result of spousal negligence and, acknowledging the equal applicability of the basic considerations, intentional torts.

Facts:

Kathryn and D. N. Crabb were wife and husband, residing in Iowa.  On January 6, 1978, both wife and husband were occupants of an aircraft owned and piloted by the husband when it crashed in Texas. Both perished in the accident. Plaintiff, Lois A. Shook, executor of the estate of the wife, filed a petition in which she alleged the wife's death was the result of the negligent operation of the airplane on the part of the husband. Shook sought damages totaling $600,000. Dennis Crabb, the executor of the estate of the husband, filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the doctrine of interspousal immunity barred the action of the wife’s estate. The district court granted the motion. Shook thereafter appealed.

Issue:

Taking into consideration the circumstances of the case, was the negligence action of the wife's estate against the estate of her husband barred by interspousal immunity?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court held that the doctrine of interspousal immunity was abrogated as it pertained to actions for personal injury that were the result of spousal negligence. The doctrine was also abrogated as to intentional torts. According to the Court, the abrogation was compelled by the fundamental proposition of public policy that the courts should afford redress for wrongs and by the failure of the rationales for doctrine to withstand scrutiny.

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