Thompson v. Thompson, 218 U.S. 611 (1910)
U.S. Supreme CourtThompson v. Thompson, 218 U.S. 611 (1910)
Thompson v. Thompson
Argued October 27, 1910
Decided December 12, 1910
218 U.S. 611
At common law, husband and wife were regarded as one, the legal existence of the latter during coverture being merged in that of the former.
Statutes passed in pursuance of a more liberal and general policy of emancipation of the wife from the husband's control differ in terms, and each must be construed with a view to effectuate the legislative intent leading to its enactment.
In construing a statute, the courts must have in mind the old law and the change intended to be effected by the passage of the new.
While, by § 1155 and other sections of the Code of the District of Columbia the common law was changed by conferring additional rights on married women and the right to sue separately for redress of wrongs concerning the same, it was not the intention of Congress to revolutionize the law governing the relation of husband and wife between themselves.
Under the existing statutes, a wife cannot maintain an action in the District of Columbia against the husband to recover damages for an assault and battery by him upon her person.
While the wife may resort to the chancery court to protect her separate property rights, quaere, and not decided, whether she alone may bring an action against the husband to protect such rights.
31 App.D.C. 557 affirmed.
The facts, which involve the right of a wife to maintain an action in the District of Columbia against her husband to recover damages for an assault and battery, are stated in the opinion.