3 years to file for alienation of affection in MS, but when does the 3 years start?

As the above letter from a reditt user shows, there are a number of ways to seek revenge with a cheating spouse.  If you are in Mississippi, you can add the filing of an alienation of affection lawsuit against the paramour to the list.

Mississippi is one of only a handful of states that allows a legal claim for alienation of affection.To prevail, a plaintiff must show  the legal elements for the claim which are wrongful conduct of the defendant, loss of affection or consortium and a causal connection between the conduct and the loss.  Fitch v. Valentine, 959 So.2d 1012, 1015 (Miss. 2007).  In addition, the plaintiff must file the lawsuit within the statute of limitations.  “Thought alienation of affection is an intentional tort, it does not have a specifically prescribed statute of limitations.  Therefore, we apply the general three-year statute of limitation..” Fulkerson v. Odom, 53 So.3d 849, 851 (Miss. Ct. App. 2011).

Under Mississippi law, a claim of alienation of affection accrues when the alienation of affection or loss of affection is finally accomplished.  The accrual of the claim, then, occurs when the affections of the spouse involved in the extramarital relationship are alienated.  The affections of the spouse wronged by the affair are irrelevant to a determination of when the cause of action accrued.

Carter v. Reddix, et al, 115 So.3d 851, 857 (Miss. Ct. App. 2012)(internal citations omitted).  The discovery rule does not toll the three year statute of limitations. Fulkerson v. Odom, 53 So.3d 849 (Miss. Ct. App. 2011).

With those general principles in mind, the Mississippi Court of Appeals is set to her oral argument in the case of Shane Anderson v. James B. Ladner in cause no. 2014-CA-00730 on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

Webcast link.

Brief of Shane Anderson

Response of James B. Ladner

Reply of Shane Anderson

Anderson brought claims against Ladner for alienation of affection (AA), reckless infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages.  The statute of limitations for an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim is one year and a claim for punitive damages is not a stand alone claim, so lets focus on the AA claim.

At the trial court level, Ladner argued that the filing of the joint filed divorce triggered the running of the statute of limitations on the AA claim.  The trial court agreed and dismissed the case.

On appeal, Anderson primarily argues for a bright line rule that accrual of an alienation of affection case begins at the finalization of the divorce and that such a rule “would be more consistent with the irreconcilable differences divorce statute because the statute itself provides for an opportunity for reconciliation.”  Anderson’s Brief at p. 10.

Ladner counters that Anderson didn’t request a bright line rule before the trial court and that Anderson’s claim accrued at the time the complaint for divorce was filed.  Ladner also argues that Anderson is prohibited from arguing a different accrual date due to res judicata and collateral estoppel.

So when exactly does the three years start?  The positions advocated by both parties have positives and negative attributes.  A bright line rule provides clarity.  However, consider the situation where a married couple files for divorce, but subsequently reconcile in spite of an earlier alienation of affection by a third party.  Anderson’s position would be that an AA claim never accrued because there was no divorce.  Ladner’s position is in and of itself a form of bright line rule.  Any time a divorce was filed (regardless of whether the parties completed the divorce), the statute of limitations would begin to run on an AA claim.

Tune in tomorrow at 10:30 for the argument.

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About randywallace
I am a husband, father, attorney, outdoorsman and cook.

5 Responses to 3 years to file for alienation of affection in MS, but when does the 3 years start?

  1. Angela says:

    Awesome blog!

  2. Wayne Rawson says:

    Can alienation of affection extend to grandchildren?

    • randywallace says:

      Not that I am aware of. “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…” Fitch v. Valentine, 959 So. 2d 1012, 1019, (Miss. 2007). When dealing with grandchildren, you have the competing interest of the grandparents’ relationship with the grandchildren vs. the parents’ desire to raise the child as they see fit. There are no such competing interests when a third party intrudes on a marriage.

  3. kandidkhy says:

    So, if there’s no divorce, there’s no ground for an alienation of affection case?

    • randywallace says:

      To my knowledge, the issue hasn’t been squarely addressed. The Mississippi Supreme Court has stated that the elements of the tort of alienation of affection are: “(1) wrongful conduct of the defendant; (2) loss of affection or consortium;
      and (3) causal connection between such conduct and loss.” Fitch v. Valentine, 959 So. 2d
      1012, 1025 (¶36) (Miss. 2007).

      It is arguable that there could be a loss of affection or consortium prior to entry of a judgment of divorce or even without entry of a judgment of divorce. As a practical matter, it would take a very unique set of facts for me to pursue an alienation of affection case if the parties to the marriage reconciled.

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