Huebner v. Deuchle, 11068--PR

Citation514 P.2d 470,109 Ariz. 549
Decision Date26 September 1973
Docket NumberNo. 11068--PR,11068--PR
PartiesEsther HUEBNER, as Administratrix of the Estate of Ella Mae Deuchle, Appellant, v. Erwin K. DEUCHLE, Appellee.
CourtSupreme Court of Arizona

D'Antonio & Videen by Garven W. Videen, Tucson, for appellant.

Estes, Browning & Zlaket by Thomas A. Zlaket, Tucson, for appellee.


This appeal is by Esther Huebner, administratrix of the estate of Ella Mae Deuchle, from an order dismissing an action against Erwin K. Deuchle for damages for the wrongful death of Ella Mae. Ella Mae Deuchle was a passenger in an automobile in which her husband, Erwin, was the operator when an accident occurred. From the injuries she received, she subsequently died. The Superior Court of Pima County ordered the action dismissed. The Court of Appeals, Division Two, reversed. See 18 Ariz.App. 241, 501 P.2d 417. We accepted review. Opinion of the Court of Appeals vacated and judgment of the Superior Court dismissing the action as to Erwin K. Deuchle affirmed.

In 1968, in Schwartz v. Schwartz, this Court held that Arizona adheres to the common law rule that tort suits between husband and wife are not sanctioned.

'The principal issue presented by petitioner is whether her capacity to sue her husband, Morris Schwartz, in tort, should be determined by the law of New York, the domicile of the Schwartzes or by the law of Arizona, the place of the injury. Arizona has adhered to the common law position that interspousal tort suits are not permitted.' 103 Ariz. 562, 563, 447 P.2d 254, 255 (1968).

Hence, if Ella Mae Deuchle had survived the injuries she received in the automobile accident, she could not have maintained an action for damages against her husband for those injuries. Suits for damages for intentional torts are permitted, but only after a husband and wife have been divorced. Windauer v. O'Connor, 107 Ariz. 267, 485 P.2d 1157 (1971).

Arizona's wrongful death act, A.R.S. § 12--611, confers an original and distinct claim for the damages sustained by named statutory beneficiaries. It is not derived from nor is it a continuation of claims which formerly existed in a decedent. And since the right to recover damages is wholly statutory, it can be granted or withheld at the pleasure of the Legislature. Halenar v. Superior Court, 109 Ariz. 27, 504 P.2d 928 (1972).

A.R.S. § 12--611 reads:

'When death of a person is caused by wrongful act, neglect or default, and the act, neglect or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action to recover damages in respect thereof, then, and in every such case, the person who or the corporation which would have been liable if death had not ensued shall be liable to an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured, and although the death was caused under such circumstances as amount in law to murder in the first or second degree or manslaughter.'

It is apparent that the Legislature of Arizona has provided in plain, unambiguous language that when the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act and the person injured would have been entitled to maintain an action for damages if he or she had not died, the person who would have been liable is liable in damages notwithstanding the death of the injured person.

What we said in Lueck v. Superior Court, 105 Ariz. 583, 585, 469...

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26 cases
  • Summerfield v. Superior Court In and For Maricopa County
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • April 24, 1985
    ...that recovery for wrongful death is purely a creature of statute, there being no recovery at common law. See, e.g., Huebner v. Deuchle, 109 Ariz. 549, 514 P.2d 470 (1973); Estate of Lister, 22 Ariz. 185, 195 In America, the Baker rule was ignored until 1848; during this forty-year period, t......
  • James v. Phoenix General Hosp., Inc., s. CV
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • October 1, 1987
    ...on the survivors of the decedent. Mariscal v. American Smelting & Refining Co., 113 Ariz. 148, 548 P.2d 412 (1976); Huebner v. Deuchle, 109 Ariz. 549, 514 P.2d 470 (1973); Halenar v. Superior Court, 109 Ariz. 27, 504 P.2d 928 (1972); Schoenrock v. CIGNA Health Plan, 148 Ariz. 548, 715 P.2d ......
  • Estate of Decamacho ex rel. Beneficiaries v. La Solana Care & Rehab, Inc.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • January 14, 2014
    ...¶ 23 In contrast, a wrongful death claim brought in Arizona is not wholly derivative of a decedent's rights. Huebner v. Deuchle, 109 Ariz. 549, 549–50, 514 P.2d 470, 470–71 (1973). Our wrongful death statute, A.R.S. § 12–611, provides in pertinent part: When death of a person is caused by w......
  • Smyser v. City of Peoria, 1 CA-CV 05-0202.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • June 12, 2007
    ...people of this state, was adopted by the Legislature and is `the rule of decision in all courts of this state.'" Huebner v. Deuchle, 109 Ariz. 549, 550, 514 P.2d 470, 471 (1973) (citation omitted) (declining to permit a wrongful death action against the decedent's husband without express st......
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