California Family Law Attorney

Liability Rules for Torts of Spouses

Generally, a married person is not liable for injury or damage caused by the other spouse simply because of the fact of marriage; however, the community estate may be liable. If the liability arises while the other married person was acting for the benefit of the community, the liability must first be satisfied from community property and then if it is exhausted the remaining damages may then be satisfied from that spouse's separate property. If not acting for the benefit of the community, then the wrongdoing spouse's liability must first be paid from their separate property and then, if exhausted, the balance must be paid from the community estate. Section 920 doesn't apply to these situations in terms of limiting the time to seek reimbursement - reimbursement must be sought withn seven years after the a spouse became entitled to seek reimbursement.


CALIFORNIA FAMILY CODE

LIABILITY FOR DEATH OR INJURY

Family Code section 1000

(a) A married person is not liable for any injury or damage caused by the other spouse except in cases where the married person would be liable therefor if the marriage did not exist.
(b) The liability of a married person for death or injury to person or property shall be satisfied as follows:
(1) If the liability of the married person is based upon an act or omission which occurred while the married person was performing an activity for the benefit of the community, the liability shall first be satisfied from the community estate and second from the separate property of the married person.
(2) If the liability of the married person is not based upon an act or omission which occurred while the married person was performing an activity for the benefit of the community, the liability shall first be satisfied from the separate property of the married person and second from the community estate.
(c) This section does not apply to the extent the liability is satisfied out of proceeds of insurance for the liability, whether the proceeds are from property in the community estate or from separate property. Notwithstanding Section 920, no right of reimbursement under this section shall be exercised more than seven years after the spouse in whose favor the right arises has actual knowledge of the application of the property to the satisfaction of the debt.