Roller v. Roller

Decision Date27 February 1905
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Appeal from Superior Court, Skagit County; George A. Joiner, Judge.

Action by Lulu Roller, by E. C. Million, her guardian ad litem against E. W. Roller. From a judgment for plaintiff defendant appeals. Reversed.

Henry McLean, for appellant.

Gable &amp Seabury and Million & Houser, for respondent.


The defendant was convicted of the crime of rape, committed upon his minor daughter, Lulu Roller, and was sentenced to a term in the penitentiary at Walla Walla. This action was commenced by the said Lulu Roller for the purpose of recovering from said defendant damages for said rape in the sum of $2,000 and the homestead of the defendant, upon which the minor children of the defendant were residing, was attached. The said Lulu Roller at the time of the commencement of this action was 15 years old. The homestead in dispute was the community property of Roller and his deceased wife, Emma Roller. The defendant interposed a demurrer to the complaint of the plaintiff, on the ground that it did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action, in that the plaintiff, being the minor child of defendant, living with him and unemancipated, had no right to sue for a tort committed by the parent upon the child. Motion was made to discharge the attachment (1) because the land was the homestead, exempt under the state law, and (2) because the land was exempt under the federal statute which exempts such property from debts contracted before the issuance of the patent. The motion to discharge the attachment was overruled. Upon the trial of the cause, judgment was entered in favor of the plaintiff for the sum of $2,000.

It is assigned that the court erred in overruling the demurrer of the appellant to the amended complaint of the respondent, and in overruling the motion to dissolve the attachment. It is the contention of the appellant that a minor child cannot sue a parent for damages arising upon tort; that such actions are against public policy, and not permitted by the law. The rule of law prohibiting suits between parent and child is based upon the interest that society has in preserving harmony in the domestic relations, an interest which has been manifested since the earliest organization of civilized government, an interest inspired by the universally recognized fact that the maintenance of harmonious and proper family relations is conducive to good citizenship, and therefore works to the welfare of the state. This view, in effect, is not disputed by the respondent, who admits the general proposition that the domestic relations of the home and family fireside cannot be disturbed by the members thereof by litigation prosecuted against each other for injuries, real or imaginary, arising out of these relations but he asserts that the law has well-defined limitations, and that every rule of law is founded upon some good reason, and the object and purpose intended to be attained must be looked to as a fair test of its scope and limitations; that in the case at bar the family relations have already been disturbed and that by action of the father the minor child has in reality been emancipated; that the harmonious relations existing have been disturbed in so rude a manner that they never can be again adjusted, and that therefore the reason for the rule does not apply. There seems to be some reason in this argument, but it overlooks the fact that courts, in determining their jurisdiction or want of jurisdiction, rely upon certain uniform principles of law, and, if it be once established that a child has a right to sue a parent for a tort, there is no practical line of demarkation which can be drawn, for the same principle which would allow the action in the case of a heinous crime, like the one involved in this case, would allow...

To continue reading

Request your trial
107 cases
  • Downs v. Poulin
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Court
    • January 11, 1966
    ...P.2d 302; Villaret v. Villaret, 83 U.S.App.D.C. 311, 169 F.2d 677; Schneider v. Schneider, 160 Md. 18, 152 A. 498; Roller v. Roller, 37 Wash. 242, 79 P. 788, 68 L.R.A. 893; Smith v. Smith, 81 Ind.App. 566, 142 N.E. 128; Taubert v. Taubert, 103 Minn. 247, 114 N.W. 763; Turner v. Carter, 169 ......
  • Gibson v. Gibson
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • January 25, 1971 peace and harmony would be irreparably destroyed if a 15-year-old girl were allowed to sue her father for rape. (Roller v. Roller (1905) 37 Wash. 242, 79 P. 788; see also McKelvey v. McKelvey (1903) 111 Tenn. 388, 77 S.W. 664, upholding a demurrer to a minor's complaint seeking damag......
  • Skinner v. Whitley
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • June 16, 1972 of a heinous crime, like the one involved in this case, would allow an action to be brought for any other tort.' Roller v. Roller, 37 Wash. 242, 79 P. 788 (1905). Other states consistently adopted the rule announced in these cases, and in due course practically all the states of the Un......
  • Grier v. Heidenberg
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 2022
    ...Hewlett v. George , 68 Miss. 703, 9 So. 885 (1891) ; McKelvey v. McKelvey , 111 Tenn. 388, 77 S.W. 664 (1903) ; and Roller v. Roller , 37 Wash. 242, 79 P. 788 (1905). See Gail D. Hollister, Parent-Child Immunity: A Doctrine in Search of Justification , 50 FORDHAM L. REV. 489, 495 (1982) (ch......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • Washington State Bar Association Washington Community Property Deskbook (WSBA) Table of Cases
    • Invalid date
    ...v.Hammond, 9 Wn.App. 500, 513 P.2d 285 (1973): 6.5(5) Rogstad v.Rogstad, 74 Wn.2d 736, 446 P.2d 340 (1968): 5.6(5) Roller v.Roller, 37 Wash. 242, 79 P. 788 (1905): 6.3(2)(h) Rolph v.McGowan, 20 Wn.App. 251, 579 P.2d 1011, review denied, 91 Wn.2d 1004(1978): 4.6, 4.14 Root v. McNary,23 Wn.2d......
  • §6.3 Tort Liability
    • United States
    • Washington State Bar Association Washington Community Property Deskbook (WSBA) Chapter 6 Involuntary Disposition-Creditors' Rights
    • Invalid date
    ...parental responsibility. 4 Restatement (Second) of Torts §895(1) cmt. g (1977). The following cases are illustrative: Roller v. Roller, 37 Wash. 242, 244, 79 P. 788 (1905). The court denied a right of action to a 15-year-old girl against her father, who had been convicted of raping her. The......
  • Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance Company v. Wiscomb: Excluding the Family Exclusion Clause
    • United States
    • Seattle University School of Law Seattle University Law Review No. 6-03, March 1983
    • Invalid date
    ...The Washington Supreme Court has the distinction of being the author of one of those three landmark opinions. In Roller v. Roller, 37 Wash. 242, 79 P. 788 (1905), the court refused a minor daughter the right to bring a civil action for rape against her father, fearing that the lawsuit would......

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