MISSISSIPPI’S ALIENATION OF AFFECTION LAW
What is an alienation of affection claim?
The claim of “alienation of affection” in Mississippi dates back to 1926. According to the Mississippi Supreme Court, an alienation of affection claim can be filed when a person is wrongly deprived of the services, companionship and consortium of their spouse because another person willfully interferes with the marital relationship. According to the Mississippi Supreme Court, “the purpose of a cause of action for alienation of affection is the protection of the love, society, companionship, and comfort that form the foundation of a marriage…. ”
While most states have abolished alienation claims, Mississippi continues to allow them based on Mississippi’s public policy of protecting the marriage union. The Mississippi Supreme Court continues to believe that the existence of an alienation of affection cause of action protects the marital relationship both by deterring wrongful behavior and by providing redress when another person, through persuasion, enticement, or inducement, causes the marital affection between the spouses to be destroyed.
Proving and alienation of affection claim?
In order to win an alienation of affection claim, the plaintiff must prove: (1) that the defendant engaged in wrongful conduct; (2) that the plaintiff suffered loss of affection or consortium; and (3) that the defendant’s conduct was the cause of the loss. Wrongful conduct may be established through evidence of persuasion, enticement, and/or inducement by the defendant.
The most common defenses to an alienation of affection claim are: (1) that before the affair or relationship with the defendant, the plaintiff’s marital relationship was already beyond repair; and/or (2) that the plaintiff’s spouse actively pursued the defendant as opposed to the other way around. The ultimate decision as to whether a defendant is liable for alienation of affection is made by the jury.
Like any personal injury lawsuit, a jury may award a successful alienation of affection plaintiff money damages. If the jury finds against the defendant, the jury will be instructed that they must award an amount of money which will reasonably compensate the plaintiff for the value of the affection and consortium lost.
In deciding how much money to award, the jury can consider the following things: (1) the loss of society, companionship, love and affection; (2) the loss of aide, services, and physical assistance; (3) the loss of sexual relations; (4) the loss of participation together in the activities, duties and responsibilities of making a home; (5) any other mental and emotional distress resulting from defendant’s conduct; and (6) any other damages proven to have resulted from any wrongful acts of the defendant.
In a typical personal injury case, the plaintiff is not entitled to recover his or her attorney fees. However, if the jury awards the plaintiff punitive damages, the plaintiff may also recover his or her attorney fees. Punitive damages are usually not available absent proof of adultery. The only way a defendant can recover attorney fees is if the case is found to be frivolous.
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