Published January 13, 2015
The U.S. Supreme Court could be hearing a bizarre case about spousal theft.
Jerry Fitch Sr., a millionaire businessman from Holly Springs, Miss., is asking the high court to limit what he must pay to his lover's ex-husband in a lawsuit that claims "alienation of affection."
Mississippi —along with Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota and Utah —still allows lawsuits by people who claim someone stole their wife or husband. Most states have abolished the antiquated notion of a woman as her husband’s property.
The case stems from a bitter divorce between Sandra Valentine and her plumber husband Johnny. The two were married for four years when she began working for Fitch. Sandra and Fitch began an affair, and soon after Sandra became pregnant. Suspecting infidelity, Johnny ordered genetic tests that revealed he was not the baby's father.
Johnny Valentine sued his wife for divorce and then he sued Fitch, and won. A Mississippi court awarded Valentine more than $750,000 in damages.
Fitch now wants the Supreme Court to step in and limit the $112,000 he must pay in punitive damages. He is not contesting the rest of the judgment.
In October, Fitch filed a petition with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia asking the court to stay enforcement of the judgment pending Fitch's future appeal to the high court. Scalia denied the request for a stay and Fitch has not yet filed a request for the Supreme Court to review the decision.
Appearing on ABC's Good Morning America, Sandra Valentine said her marriage was already in jeopardy because of her ex-husband's gambling problem and believes the lawsuit is about one thing for her ex-husband.
"Just the money," she said. "He had already alienated my affection with gambling, so the marriage was already over before I met Jerry. So he's wrong."
Johnny Valentine and his attorney would not comment because the case is still pending in the courts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.