A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: sanctity of marriage

Thinking About Breaking Up a Marriage? It Could Cost You.

 

By Jessica McElroy

Mississippi plumber Johnny Valentine and his wife Sandra Day wed in 1993 and didn’t enjoy the happiest of marriages. Mr. Valentine was a drinker and gambler who showed no signs of changing no matter how many times the missus threatened to leave.  In 1998, an unhappy and fed up Ms. Day began having an affair with her boss, Jerry Fitch, a wealthy oil and real estate businessman.

The following year, Ms. Day gave birth to a baby girl whom Mr. Valentine assumed was his daughter– until he didn’t.  Seven months after the little girl was born, Mr. Valentine took a paternity test.  He’d been right to be suspicious; the girl was Mr. Fitch’s child. Ms. Day continued adulterous relationship with Mr. Fitch, and Mr. Valentine filed for divorce.

Shortly after that, Mr. Valentine brought another suit – this time, against Mr. Fitch – essentially accusing him of stealing his wife.  Mr. Valentine won, and earlier this year,  the Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed the jury verdict against Mr. Fitch including $754,500 in compensatory and punitive damages– plus 8 percent annual interest.

Yikes.

Mr. Fitch’s big payout to Mr. Valentine came courtesy of Mississippi’s common law tort of alienation of affection.

LASIS wasn’t even aware that such a law, even if on the books, could still being litigated in today’s courts. It may not be nice to have an affair with someone married but how the heck can it be illegal?  We were intrigued, and investigated.   (more…)

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