By: Jeremy P. McNinch, Esq.
Like it or not, the tort of alienation of affection is still an actual and viable cause of action in Mississippi. In general, an alienation of affection claim asserts that a third party wrongfully interfered with a person’s marriage and the person sustained damages because of the interference. The Mississippi Court of Appeals has described such claims as follows:
“There are three elements that a plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, in a case for alienation of affection. These elements are: (1) the wrongful conduct of the defendant; (2) the loss of affection or consortium between the husband and wife; and (3) a causal connection between the wrongful conduct and the loss of affection or consortium.”
Wood v. Cooley, 78 So.3d 920 (Miss. Ct. App. 2011) (internal citations omitted).
Despite a few indications in the last several years that it might be abolished, the tort is apparently not going anywhere. In 2007, the Mississippi Supreme Court “refused to abolish the tort on public policy grounds ‘in the interest of protecting the marriage relationship and providing a remedy for intentional conduct which causes a loss of consortium.’” Brent v. Mathis, 154 So. 3d 842, 845 (quoting Fitch v. Valentine, 959 So.2d 1012, 1020 (Miss.2007)). In 2013, a bill was submitted in the Mississippi Senate that would have abolished the cause of action. The bill died in committee, however.
With our highly mobile culture in America, there have been some interesting alienation of affection cases where the issue of jurisdiction has been hotly contested. Based on those cases, it seems that a person need not have much physical presence in Mississippi to be a potential defendant in an alienation of affection case, provided of course that the elements of the claim can be established. See Knight v. Woodfield, 50 So.3d 995 (Miss. 2011); see also Bailey v. Stanford, 2012 WL 569020 (N.D. Miss. 2012).
As a side note, McNinch Law Firm recently represented a plaintiff in an alienation of affection action, and we tried the case to a jury verdict. We were very happy with the result.