OPINION OF THE COURT
JONES, Chief Justice.
Appellee, James T. Fadgen, brought an action in trespass against appellant, George Lenkner, based upon the theory of criminal conversation. The complaint alleged that appellee and one Bonnie Hoch Fadgen were married in 1972 and that during the period of this marriage, the
The Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division, sitting en banc, granted the appellee's motion for judgment upon admission.
This Court last reviewed an action similar to the one presently at bar in 1959. In Karchner v. Mumie, 398 Pa. 13, 156 A.2d 537 (1959), the Court upheld a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff-wife based upon the tort of criminal conversation where appellant-defendant had sought reversal on the ground that the cause of action as developed at common law was only available to married men as against an erring spouse's paramour.
It is clear, however, that that first step directed towards fusing the ancient with the "modern" of 1959 was not sufficient revitalization such as to weather the rapid legal and societal changes witnessed over the past fifteen years. We might look back and well appreciate that, absent the benefit of attitudes reflected in the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, the Court in 1959 nevertheless laudibly rejected the fictitious notion that a wife, like a servant, was the personal property (chattel as it were) of the husband and that an action in criminal conversation was a right sacrosanct to none but the master. Still, the Court's extension to married women of the right to bring such a cause of action only delayed what today demands; that is, the total abolition of a pious yet unrighteous cause of action.
Against the social background of the 18th century, Blackstone wrote,
3 Black Com. edited by Wendell 139 (1768).
It is no defense to the action, however, that the plaintiff's spouse consented nor in fact that the spouse was the aggressor or seducer. Sieber v. Pettit, 200 Pa. 58, 49 A. 763 (1901); Durning v. Hastings, 183 Pa. 210, 38 A. 627 (1897). As to the former, it was thought at common law that a wife was not competent to give her consent so as to defeat her husband's interest. Tinker v. Colwell, 193 U.S. 473, 483, 24 S.Ct. 505, 48 L.Ed. 754 (1903).
Seiber v. Pettit, 200 Pa. 58 at 67, 49 A. 763 (1901).
Id. at p. 69, 49 A. at 765. See also Tinker v. Colwell, supra; Durning v. Hastings, 183 Pa. 210, 211-212, 38 A. 627 (1897). Such factors bearing on the issue of fault are not admissible except with reference to mitigating damages. Matusak v. Kulezenski, 295 Pa. 208, 145 A. 94 (1928); Seiber v. Pettit, 200 Pa. 58, 69, 49 A. 763 (1901); Mathies v. Mazet, 164 Pa. 580, 30 A. 434 (1894).
We, of course, in no way condone sexual promiscuity and continue to hold the institution of marriage in the highest regard. However, the reasoning developed at common law behind stripping a defendant of all defenses to an action in criminal conversation, save the plaintiff's consent, no longer merits endorsement.
Damages alleged in an action for criminal conversation are compensatory, covering injury to the plaintiff's social position, disgrace in the community where he or she lives or was in business and dishonor to plaintiff and plaintiff's family. Karchner v. Mumie, supra; Antonelli v. Xenakis, supra, DiSanti v. Cassidy, 63 Pa. D. & C. 2d 6 (1973). "And, a single act of adultery is sufficient to entitle the husband of the woman to damages in an action against the adulterer for criminal conversation even though the husband sustains no further loss: Antonelli v. Xenakis, supra, 363 Pa. at 377, 69 A.2d 102; Restatement, Torts, § 683, Comment c.; § 685, Comment b." DiSanti v. Cassidy, supra, 63 Pa.D. & C.2d at 9. Punitive damages have been held to be appropriate as well. Joseph v. Naylor, 257 Pa. 561, 101 A. 846 (1917); Cornelius v. Hambay, 150 Pa. 359, 24 A. 515 (1892); Lippmann, supra, at 656-57. Computations for the type of injury alleged here is always inexact and as Blackstone warned "usually very large and exemplary." This is so not only by virtue of the abstract nature of the injuries alleged but is further exacerbated by the emotionladen nature of the proceedings. See Note, supra, n. 4, at 433-34; Greer, Criminal Conversation: Civil Action for Adultery, 25 Baylor L.Rev. 495, 499 (1973) [hereinafter referred to as "Greer"].
A variety of authorities have noted how seriously prone to abuse this sort of action is where "the threat of exposure, publicity, and notoriety is more than sufficient
Prosser, supra, at 887 and authorities cited therein.
We in no way intend to infer such motives on the part of the appellee in the instant case by pointing to the potential abuses to which this action is susceptible. However, we believe the cause of action itself is an anachronism
The total abolition of this cause of action is well within the bounds of our judicial powers. In fact, it is our duty to so act with regard to court-made rules where "reason and a right sense of justice recommend it." Ayala v. Philadelphia Board of Public Education, 453 Pa. 584, 600, 305 A.2d 877, 885 (1973); Falco v. Pados, 444 Pa. 372, 382, 282 A.2d 351, 356 (1971). Cessante ratione legis, cessat et ipsa lex. Commonwealth v. Ladd, 402 Pa. 164, 174-175, 166 A.2d 501, (1960); Appeal of Cummings, 11 Pa. 273, 276 (1948). Appellee admits that there is no vested right in the continued recognition of all causes of action, Munn v. Illinois, 94 U.S. 113, 134, 24 L.Ed. 77 (1876);
We have often stated that while the principle of stare decisis is a wise course of judicial action, it is not an ironclad rule and is to be controlling only where applicable. So that, when it is determined that a past precedent is no longer in accord with modern realities, and the rationale justifying the old rule no longer finds support, then the pledge to certainty gives way "to new conditions and to the persuasion of superior reasoning." Griffith v. United Air Lines, 416 Pa. 1, 23, 203 A.2d 796, 806 (1964). As we said in Flagiello v. Pennsylvania Hospital, 417 Pa. 486, 208 A.2d 193 (1965), quoting Justice Cardozo:
Id. at 514, 208 A.2d at 207.
Ayala v. Philadelphia Board of Public Education, supra, 453 Pa. at 603-04, 305 A.2d at 887.
Each party to bear own costs.
NIX, J., joins the majority opinion and also joins the concurring opinion filed by MANDERINO, J.
MANDERINO, J., filed a concurring opinion.
ROBERTS and POMEROY, JJ., filed dissenting opinions.
MANDERINO, Justice (concurring).
I concur in the result reached by the majority opinion because I believe that result mandated by the decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 93 S.Ct. 705, 35 L.Ed.2d 147 (1973), in which the court held that the right of privacy was broad enough to preclude interference by the state in a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy, and in Cleveland Board of Education v. La Fleur, 414 U.S. 632, 94 S.Ct. 791, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974). In the latter case the court stated its recognition ". . . that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Id. at 639, 94 S.Ct. at 796, 39 L.Ed.2d at 60. If a married man or woman chooses to engage in sexual activity with one other than his or her spouse, I believe such a choice is protected by the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution and there is no "compelling state interest" involved which would justify the state's limiting the exercise of such rights. See Kramer v. Union Free School District, 395 U.S. 621, 89 S.Ct. 1886, 23 L.Ed.2d 583 (1969). The majority opinion amply illustrates the extent of the state's past limitations on the free exercise of
I also comment on the dissenting opinion of Mr. Justice Roberts. By "abolishing" the cause of action for criminal conversation, the majority at last recognizes that one's spouse no longer suffers a compensable injury when the other engages in sexual activity outside the marriage relationship. Such a recognition is long overdue. In fact, I believe that were we to apply Mr. Justice Roberts' three part inquiry the result would be the same: (1) society no longer has any interest in protecting one spouse against extramarital sexual activity by the other; (2) since there is no longer any interest to protect, there has been no invasion of such interest; and (3) no injury has resulted.
As to the question raised by Mr. Justice Pomeroy of the appealability of the order of the trial court, I quote from Clearfield Cheese Co. v. United Stone and A. Prod. Workers, 378 Pa. 144, 149, 106 A.2d 612, 614-615 (1954):
Id. at 149, 106 A.2d at 614-615.
NIX, J., joins in this concurring opinion.
ROBERTS, Justice (dissenting).
I dissent. The majority totally abolishes the cause of action for criminal conversation without any statutory or
The majority devotes much of its discussion to the history of this cause of action. Whether a wife was once regarded as the property of her husband is irrelevant. The action is now equally available to a husband or wife. Karchner v. Mumie, 398 Pa. 13, 156 A.2d 537 (1959). Furthermore, the basis of the action is not the protection of property rights, but the protection of conjugal rights. Cf. Karchner v. Mumie, supra; Long v. Booe, 106 Ala. 570, 17 So. 716 (1895).
Respected authorities on the law of torts have noted that "[t]he interests involved in the familial relationship are among the most delicate and most important in our society." F. Harper & F. James, 1 The Law of Torts (1956 ed.) § 8.1, at 606. Surely an action for criminal conversation is a legitimate remedy for invasion of the familial relationship.
Professor Prosser has articulated what the law of torts embodies:
W. Prosser, Law of Torts (1971 ed.) § 1, at 6. Our society still considers it "socially unreasonable" for one person to have sexual relations with the spouse of another. Nor can it be said that the law is unable to provide a remedy for the invasion of the marital interest.
The majority's reliance on cases where we have abolished immunities to tort actions is inapposite here. Indeed, in those cases we removed immunities so that actions can be brought. In none of these cases did we abolish a cause of action.
Nor is it persuasive that the Legislature omitted adultery from the new Crimes Code. The Legislature deemed it advisable to abolish only the criminal action and not to abolish the correlative tort, as was done in certain other states. Society may not have a sufficient interest in prosecuting this activity but individuals may indeed still have an interest worthy of vindication in a civil action. It may well be that the new Crimes Code creates even greater justification for the tort of criminal conversation, since a wronged spouse now has only a civil remedy and can no longer be vindicated through society's exercise of the criminal sanction.
Even if, as the majority believes, certain facts should be defenses to the action, there is no justification for abolishing the entire cause of action. First, our legal system is capable of ascertaining, instituting and applying those defenses to an action which are worthy of judicial recognition. But we are not now presented with an argument for enlarging available defenses. Second, mechanisms presently exist which are capable of lessening
In sum, the majority's conclusion is not supported by its premises. There is no authority for judicially extinguishing a cause of action, and the majority's discussion of the history of the tort and available defenses is not relevant to the real inquiry involved when an entire cause of action is attacked.
The true inquiry here should be: (1) Is there an interest which society should protect? (2) Has there been an invasion of that interest which cannot be excused or justified? (3) Has the invasion produced an injury for which the law can provide a remedy?
The first inquiry has been answered in the affirmative for more than two hundred years. Whether the interest is no longer worthy of protection is a public policy decision only the Legislature should make. Since a legally protected interest exists and an invasion of that interest has been admitted in this case, the trial court should determine whether the invasion can be excused or justified. Likewise, the trial court should determine whether the injury sustained is one for which the court should provide a remedy.
The judgment on that issue of liability should be affirmed and the case remanded to the trial court for a determination of damages.
POMEROY, Justice (dissenting).
The defendant took his appeal to the Superior Court from a summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, sought and obtained by plaintiff under Rule 1035 of our Rules of Civil Procedure, establishing defendant's liability for criminal conversation. Rule 1035(b) of the Rules expressly states that a summary judgment rendered on issues of liability alone, as in this case, is "interlocutory in character." This provision of the rule is consistent with our case law, which has defined a final order as an order which puts one of the parties out of court. See, e. g., Ventura v. Skylark Motel, Inc., 431 Pa. 459, 246 A.2d 353 (1968); Posternack v. American Casualty Co. of Reading, 421 Pa. 21, 218 A.2d 350 (1966); McGee v. Singley, 382 Pa. 18, 114 A.2d 141 (1955). Appellant, however, has not yet been put out of court, for trial on the issue of damages remains to be had. Although the trial court in the text of its order described it as a "final order," the order is clearly interlocutory; the court could not imbue it with finality simply by calling it final.
As a general rule, the appellate courts of Pennsylvania have jurisdiction of appeals only from final orders of the courts below.
By requiring that all issues arising from a single law suit be reviewed in a single appeal, the rule of non-appealability of interlocutory orders and judgments serves the salutary purposes of promoting judicial economy in our appellate courts and of avoiding the protraction of litigation in our trial courts which would result from the allowance of multiple appeals. See Adcox v. Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association Casualty Insurance Co., supra; Sullivan v. Philadelphia, 378 Pa. 648, 107 A.2d 854 (1954). It is recognized, however, that there can occasionally be cases in which the considerations supporting the general rule of nonappealability are outweighed by the need for a speedy determination of a legal issue the resolution of which is in doubt and upon which the
Footnote 1 of the majority opinion notwithstanding the order granting the appellee's motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability does not meet the requirements of Section 501(b). The trial court did not certify that determination of the issue of liability "involves a controlling question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion" or that "an immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the matter"; it made no certification of any sort. Moreover, the appellant did not petition the Superior Court for a discretionary allowance of appeal, and the Superior Court never entered an order allowing the appeal. See Superior Court Rule 53. Appellant and the courts below have at all times treated the order of the court of common pleas as a "final order" from which appellant was entitled to appeal as a matter of right. In so doing, they were plainly mistaken, and I
Because under the circumstances the Superior Court lacked jurisdiction in the premises, I would vacate the order of that court and quash the appeal as having been brought from an interlocutory order.
For the purposes of this appeal, we elect to treat the lower court's order as a certification of the question of whether or not the cause of action in trespass based upon the theory of criminal conversation retains vitality in light of modern legal and societal changes. See Act of 1970, July 31, P.L. 673, No. 223, Art. V, § 501(b), 17 P.S. 211.501(b).
[The anomaly presents itself that the plaintiff's spouse, under the eyes of the law, is guilty of nothing and liable to no one but him or herself, raising possible Equal Protection problems.]
To date, ten states have adopted statutes abolishing the cause of action for criminal conversation entirely: Ala.Code Tit. 7, 115 (1960); Cal.Civ.Code 43.5 (West's 1954); Colo.Rev.Stat.Ann. 41-3-1 (1964); Conn.Gen.Stat.Ann. § 52-572f (1971); Fla.Stat.Ann. 771.01-07 (1964); Ind.Ann.Stat. 2-508 (1967); Mich.Comp.Laws 551.301 (1967), N.J.Rev.Stat. 2A:23-1 (1952), N.Y.Civ.Rights Law 80-A (McKinney Supp. 1970); Wyo.Stat.Ann. 1-728 (1959). See also Ill.Rev.Stat. Ch. 68 §§ 41-44 (limiting damages, although the action is not abolished); Henley v. Rockett, 243 Ala. 172, 8 So.2d 852 (1942) (modifying the cause of action as it existed at common law).
Singer, supra, at 399, 346 A.2d at 903.
Furthermore, indemnification should be available where the spouse misrepresents her marital status to the liable party. Cf. Restatement (Second) of Torts, ch. 44, 886B(2)(c) (Tent. Draft No. 18, 1972).