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Law School Case Brief

Homer v. Long - 90 Md. App. 1, 599 A.2d 1193 (1992)

Rule:

Abolition of the actions for alienation of affections and criminal conversation does not preclude a person from maintaining a traditional breach of contract action or a recognized tort action merely because the breach arose from an improper liaison with the plaintiff's spouse or because one effect of the alleged breach or tortious conduct was a disruption or breakup of his or her marriage. What is precluded, however, is the refitting of the abolished actions into other forms. One cannot sue to recover for injuries arising from "defilement of the marriage bed" or from an interference with the marriage by simply casting the defendant's conduct as a breach of contract, or negligence, or some other intentional tort.

Facts:

Plaintiff former husband brought an action alleging breach of contract and tort claims, including negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, resulting from a sexual relationship between defendant psychiatrist and the former husband's wife while the wife was a patient of the psychiatrist. Plaintiff contended that he was wrongfully lulled into believing that the psychiatrist was providing his wife with psychiatric counseling, while in fact the psychiatrist engaged in a scheme to gain sexual access to the wife and to destroy the former husband's marriage. The circuit court dismissed the tort claims. Plaintiff appealed.

Issue:

Can the plaintiff recover damages for interference of marriage against his wife’s psychiatrist?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court found (1) the negligence claim was not established because the psychiatrist's professional duty ran to the patient and not to the patient's spouse, (2) the claims of negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and negligence were not established because the damages sought by the former husband related to the adultery and breakup of his marriage rather than from any personal injury inflicted on the former husband, and (3) the claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress had no basis because the former husband was not present when the psychiatrist allegedly seduced his wife, and the former husband did not learn of the alleged sexual relationship until months after it had begun.

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