Allstate v. Kim

Citation376 Md. 275,829 A.2d 611
Decision Date31 July 2003
Docket NumberNo. 76,76
CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland

Thomas Patrick Ryan (Amy Leete Leone of McCarthy Wilson, on brief), Rockville, for Appellant.

Thomas X. Glancy, Jr. (Christine Y. Lee of Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander, LLC, on brief), Baltimore, for Appellees.


In its 2001 session, the General Assembly abolished the defense of parent-child immunity in a tort action arising from the operation of a motor vehicle, up to the minimum amount of liability insurance coverage required by Maryland Code, § 17-103(b) of the Transportation Article ($20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident). The law took effect October 1, 2001. The issue in this appeal is whether that law was intended to apply, and lawfully can apply, to an action that was filed after October 1, 2001, but that arose from an accident that occurred prior to that date. In an action for declaratory judgment filed by appellant, Allstate Insurance Company, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County declared that the law was applicable. We shall affirm.


This Court adopted the doctrine of parent-child tort immunity in 1930. In Schneider v. Schneider, 160 Md. 18, 152 A. 498 (1930), we barred an action by a mother against her minor son for injuries arising from an automobile accident caused by her son's negligent driving. In doing so, as we later explained in Warren v. Warren, 336 Md. 618, 622, 650 A.2d 252, 254 (1994), "[w]e fashioned a broad reciprocal immunity under which parents and children could not assert any claim for civil redress [against each other]." We have, over time, offered various rationales for that immunity—that it preserved both the harmony and integrity of the family unit and parental authority in the parent-child relationship, that it prevented fraud and collusion among family members to the detriment of third parties, and that it averted the threat that intra-familial litigation would deplete family resources. See Renko v. McLean, 346 Md. 464, 469, 697 A.2d 468, 470-71 (1997)

and Eagan v. Calhoun, 347 Md. 72, 75, 698 A.2d 1097, 1099 (1997).

The doctrine was first enunciated in an 1891 Mississippi case, Hewlett v. George, 68 Miss. 703, 9 So. 885 (1891), and, for a time, gained recognition in many other States. By 1994, however, the doctrine had either been abrogated altogether or made inapplicable to motor torts in most of the States that had ever adopted it, including Mississippi. In Warren v. Warren, supra, 336 Md. at 627, n. 2, 650 A.2d at 257, n. 2, we noted that 43 jurisdictions then permitted suits between parents and children for motor torts, either because parent-child tort immunity had never been adopted or because it had been totally or partially abrogated.

Notwithstanding that Maryland remained increasingly isolated in its attachment to this doctrine, we steadfastly refused to abolish it and consented to only three exceptions to it. In Mahnke v. Moore, 197 Md. 61, 77 A.2d 923 (1951), we held that a minor child who had suffered from cruel, inhuman, or outrageous conduct at the hands of a parent could sue that parent for money damages. In Waltzinger v. Birsner, 212 Md. 107, 128 A.2d 617 (1957), we held that an emancipated child could sue his parent for claims arising after the child reached majority, and, in Hatzinicolas v. Protopapas, 314 Md. 340, 550 A.2d 947 (1988), we allowed a child to sue the business partner of his parent for negligence committed in the operation of the partnership. We rejected several entreaties to add an additional exception for actions arising from motor torts, despite the existence of limited compulsory insurance in Maryland. Frye v. Frye, 305 Md. 542, 505 A.2d 826 (1986); Warren v. Warren, supra, 336 Md. 618, 650 A.2d 252; Renko v. McLean, supra, 346 Md. 464, 697 A.2d 468; Eagan v. Calhoun, supra, 347 Md. at 81, 698 A.2d at 1102. In Frye and Warren, we expressed the beliefs that exclusion of motor torts from the immunity doctrine would inevitably have some impact on the compulsory insurance program mandated by the Legislature and that, if an exception of that kind was to be made, it should "be created by the General Assembly after an examination of appropriate policy considerations in light of the current statutory scheme." Frye, supra, 305 Md. at 567,505 A.2d at 839; Warren, supra, 336 Md. at 627, 650 A.2d at 257.1

Our last rejection of a proposed exception for motor torts came in 1997, in Renko. The Legislature immediately renewed efforts to create such an exception by statute. Bills were introduced in the 1998 and 1999 sessions, each, as we shall explain, taking a somewhat different approach, but neither passed. Finally, in the 2001 session, the Legislature passed House Bill 183 (2001 Md. Laws, ch. 199). Chapter 199 added a new § 5-806 to the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article—the subtitle dealing with immunities and prohibited actions—and made conforming amendments to § 3-904, which was part of the wrongful death law. Section 5-806(b) provides:

"The right of action by a parent or the estate of a parent against a child of the parent, or by a child or the estate of a child against a parent of the child, for wrongful death, personal injury, or property damage arising out of the operation of a motor vehicle ... may not be restricted by the doctrine of parent-child immunity or by any insurance policy provisions, up to the mandatory minimum liability coverage levels required by § 17-103(b) of the Transportation Article."

The Act took effect October 1, 2001, and declared that its provisions "shall apply to any case for wrongful death, personal injury, or property damage arising out of the operation of a motor vehicle filed on or after [that date]."

On July 13, 2001, Nathan Ji Hoo Kim, a young child, was a passenger in a motor vehicle being driven by his mother, Hyo Shin Kim. Nathan somehow managed to get out of his car seat in the back and make his way to the front of the car. Commencing an attempt to return the child to his car seat, Ms. Kim pulled to the side of the road and opened the driver's side door. She failed to put the gear lever in Park position, however, and the car began to roll forward. Nathan, unfortunately, fell out of the car while it was in motion and was injured. Kyong Ho Kim, Nathan's father, incurred medical expenses in the treatment of Nathan's injuries.

At the time of the accident, Mr. and Ms. Kim had in place a policy of motor vehicle insurance issued on February 25, 2001 by Allstate Insurance Company. The policy provided liability coverage in the amount of $50,000 per person injured. It contained an exclusion, however, for

"[b]odily injury to any person related to an insured person by blood, marriage, or adoption and residing in that person's household, to the extent that the limits of liability for this coverage exceed the limits of liability required by the Maryland Financial Responsibility Law."

Mr. Kim made a claim on the policy, on both his and Nathan's behalf, whereupon Allstate filed this declaratory judgment action in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County to determine whether there was coverage. Allstate acknowledged that, if parent-child immunity was inapplicable to the claim, Allstate would be liable, up to the minimum liability coverage required by § 17-103(b) of the Transportation Article, due to the mother's negligence. It contended, however, that Chapter 199, abrogating the immunity in motor tort cases, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and other unspecified provisions of the U.S. and Maryland Constitutions, and that, even if Constitutional, it was not intended to be applied and could not validly be applied to claims or causes of action that arose before its effective date (October 1, 2001). Retroactive application, it averred, would constitute an unlawful impairment of the obligation of contracts and would violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Articles 19 and 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Allstate asked the court to make declarations consistent with those arguments—in effect, to declare Chapter 199 invalid or inapplicable.

The court found no merit in Allstate's contentions. On July 1, 2002, it entered a declaratory judgment that Chapter 199 "applies retroactively to any claims filed on or after October 1, 2001, irrespective of whether the cause of action giving rise to such claims arose prior to or after that date" and that the statute was "constitutional in all respects." Allstate appealed, and we granted certiorari prior to any proceedings in the Court of Special Appeals to consider (1) whether the Legislature intended for Chapter 199 to apply to claims filed on or after October 1, 2001, regardless of when the cause of action arose; (2) if so, whether, as to Allstate, such application violates the due process and "taking" provisions of the Federal and State Constitutions or constitutes an unlawful impairment of contract; and (3) whether abolition of parent-child immunity only for motor torts violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. We shall affirm the judgment entered below.


Equal Protection

Chapter 199 abrogates parent-child immunity only with respect to tort claims arising from automobile accidents and, as to those claims, only up to the minimum amount of insurance required by State law ($20,000 per person injured up to a maximum of $40,000 per accident). Allstate contends that there is no rational basis for distinguishing those kinds of claims from other tort claims and that, as a result, the partial abrogation violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. For that proposition, Allstate relies entirely on a 1980 South Carolina case, Elam v. Elam, 275 S.C. 132, 268 S.E.2d 109 (1980),...

To continue reading

Request your trial
50 cases
  • Grier v. Heidenberg
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 2022
    ...the General Assembly "immediately renewed efforts to create such an exception by statute." Allstate Ins. Co. v. Kim , 376 Md. 276, 283, 829 A.2d 611 (2003). These efforts came to fruition in 2001, when the General Assembly enacted what was codified as Courts & Jud. Proc. § 5-806, which now ......
  • Doe v. Dep't of Pub. Safety & Corr. Servs., 125
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • March 4, 2013 provided by Article 17 to that which is provided by the federal Constitution. In Allstate Ins. Co. v. Kim, 376 Md. 276, 289–90, 829 A.2d 611, 618–19 (2003), we explained that when determining if the retroactive application of a statute “contravene[s] some Constitutional right or ......
  • Jacob Doe v. Hartford Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 7, 2015
    ...a barred cause of action, thereby violating the vested right of the defendant"); but see Allstate Ins. Co. v. Kim, 376 Md. 276, 296-98, 829 A.2d 611 (2003) (legislature did not violate defendant's vested rights by retroactively abrogating defense of parent-child immunity). 49. See Schulte v......
  • Marshall v. State Of Md.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • July 27, 2010
    ...499-500 n. 5 (2007); Green Party v. Board of Elections, 377 Md. 127, 157-158, 832 A.2d 214, 232 (2003); Allstate v. Kim, 376 Md. 276, 293, 829 A.2d 611, 621 (2003); Frankel v. Board of Regents, 361 Md. 298, 313, 761 A.2d 324, 332 (2000); Gahan v. State, 290 Md. 310, 322, 430 A.2d 49, 55 (19......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT