During the decade of the 1980s, I extensively explored the doctrine of interspousal tort immunity in the United States. I examined the origins and development of the concept; how the notion survived intact in every jurisdiction throughout the nation until 1914; the first successful efforts to abolish immunity during the teens; the slow pace of abrogation in the five decades between 1920 and 1970; and the steady decline of the doctrine thereafter. Indeed, only a small number of states in the country still retain any form of interspousal tort immunity, even though some jurisdictions evince concern about certain issues involving the doctrine.
I want to revisit that possibility and to explore other ideas in · this essay primarily by tracing the rise and demise of interspousal tort immunity in the jurisdictions of Montana and Virginia. I have selected Montana and Virginia for several reasons. Each may serve as a surrogate for its respective region, even if neither is necessarily a perfect representative. Tracing the doctrine in the two states might reveal patterns or at least afford helpful insights that could be applied to seek immunity's abolition in the few jurisdictions that cling to this antiquated concept.
Carl Tobias, The Imminent Demise of Interspousal Tort Immunity, 60 Mont. L. Rev. 101 (1999)