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Stone v. Bang - 153 Miss. 892, 122 So. 95 (1929)

Rule:

For the seduction and defilement of a minor daughter, the parent may recover for the wrong, because it is his right and duty to protect the person and the morals of his child, and so long as disability of non-age continues, he has, de jure, the authority to control its person and conduct, its society and services; that the abnegation of this authority and right is not to be presumed, unless there has been some decisive act done, or contract made, by which the parent, in such form as is obligatory, absolves the child from dependence upon him, and places her under the control and disposition of another; and while this condition of things continues, he may maintain the action, although the injury be done whilst the infant was an apprentice. If that relation is dissolved, and the parental rights are resumed, the suit may rest upon any consequential damages the parent may have sustained.

Facts:

Defendant, a Holiness preacher, was married with several children. He conducted religious services at a church and was the leader of the choir. Plaintiff father had a daughter, Lillie, who was between 16 and 17 years of age. Lillie's testimonial evidence was uncontradicted; that one night at church defendant told her he was going away, he wanted her to leave with him, and he requested her not to tell anybody of his wish; that his wife did not love him and neither did his children; that he loved Lillie; that God had said if a man had a desire in his heart, He would gratify it, and that God would forgive her if Lillie went away with him, and that her father and mother would also forgive her; that the Bible justified such a thing; and that later, on another night at church, defendant asked her if she was going to leave with him, to which she replied that she did not know, and appellant said then that he loved her and wanted her to go with him, and assured her that she would have a better time with him than at home; that he promised her everything she wanted; that he would buy her all sorts of things, all the clothes she wanted and a car, and after everything had settled down, he would get a tent and go to preaching; that he wrote her a letter and asked her to burn it, in which he told her he prayed to God to let him have her; that he loved her and wanted her, and would care for her and buy her what she wanted; that he had plenty of money; that she burned the letter because he told her to do so; that every time she went to church he would importune her to go with him; that she received a second letter from him which he told her to read and burn, with which request Lillie complied; that in this second letter he told her that he had $500 and promised her a car and clothes and a good time, and stated that she would be better off than at home, and later, on returning from the post office, defendant stopped her and asked her if she was going with him; defendant was in a car by himself and induced her to get in with him; that he drove further and stopped, and hugged and kissed her; that she objected to this and tried to make him quit; that he told her how much he loved her, and that he was going to leave next Saturday and go to Mobile, and that he would meet her next Wednesday morning near her house before daylight; that to this meeting she agreed; that he according came about five o'clock in the morning, that she went to him, got in the car with him, and he took her to Mobile; that there, as a result of persuasion, she submitted to sexual intercourse; that later on they went to New Orleans and continued their relations; and that he assured her all the time it was all right, and that God would forgive them.

Defendant did not testify. The only evidence he offered was that of one Rouse, who testified that, shortly before the alleged seduction, he saw Lillie and a young man together, between sundown and dark, near a barn in the old shipyard. 

Plaintiff father brought an action under § 720, Code of 1906 (§ 514, Hemingway's 1927 Code) (Mississippi), to recover damages for the alleged seduction by the preacher of the father's minor daughter. At the request of the father, the court instructed the jury that they were authorized, in assessing damages, to consider, as an element, the father's humiliation and wounded feelings caused by the seduction of Lillie. The giving of that instruction was assigned and argued as error by the defendant.

Issue:

Did the trial court err in instructing the jury that they were authorized, in assessing damages, to consider, as an element, the father's humiliation and wounded feelings caused by the seduction of his daughter?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of Mississippi held that the father's action for the defilement of his minor daughter could rest upon any consequential damages he may have sustained. While the father's declaration did not set out specifically that he endured humiliation and distress on account of the seduction, the declaration as a whole, in alleging that the preacher contrived and wrongfully and wickedly intended to bring dishonor, disgrace, and mental distress upon him, was sufficient. The court found that the trial court properly refused an instruction that the daughter agreed to sexual intercourse where she was too young under the law to give consent.

Defendant argued further that the instruction was erroneous because the father did not sue for damages for mental anguish, but alone for the loss of the services of his daughter. We think a fair interpretation of the language of the declaration is that both mental anguish and loss of services of his daughter were relied on as elements of damages. It was alleged in the declaration that, in the seduction of father's daughter, defendant contrived and wrongfully and wickedly intended to injure the father and bring dishonor, disgrace, and mental distress upon him as well as deprive him of the services of his daughter. Upon those averments in the declaration, the damages sued for were based. The appellate court further concluded that while the declaration did not set out in so many words that the father endured humiliation and distress of mind on account of the seduction of his daughter; but, taking the declaration as a whole, the court concluded that it could mean nothing else.

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