We have previously followed alienation of affection lawsuit — difficult tort actions that are not recognized in most states. Mississippi appears to be cornering the market on such lawsuits this month with lawsuits involving two political different prominent individuals, including Democratic Party chairman Jamie Franks. The state Supreme Court has also released an interesting opinion on whether a law firm can be a defendant in an alienation lawsuit.
Franks has accused Lee County Schools Superintendent Mike Scott of alienation of affection after an alleged affair with his now ex-wife, who worked for the school district. Scott counterfiled an extortion claim (another relatively rare action), alleging that Franks tried to coerce him into resigning over the affair. He also alleges malicious interference with employment, defamation and negligence.
Mississippi courts are also considering a lawsuit by Leisha Pickering, the estranged wife of former U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering. She filed a lawsuit against a woman who allegedly had an affair with Pickering.
To make matters even more complicated, former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Chuck McRae is now seeking to withdraw as counsel for Leisha Pickering and trying to put a lien on property over failure to pay his bills.
For a discussion of the tort in Mississippi, read Pierce v. Cook: Pierce
The Mississippi Supreme Court also issued a ruling recently in a case with a similar charge brought against an entire law firm. (Baker Donelson v. Reed). The Court described the essential facts:
Sam Seay and William Reed began a lifelong friendship at age eight. In January 2003, following termination from his employment with BancorpSouth, Sam alleges that Reed, an attorney and then-president and chief operating officer (“COO”) of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C. (“Baker Donelson”), undertook legal representation of Sam in the ensuing conflict. Reed acknowledges that Sam “asked me to look at some specific [legal] issues . . . .” In late October or early November 2003, Reed participated in an extramarital affair with Sam’s then-wife, Rebecca Seay. In January 2004, Sam filed a complaint against BancorpSouth using other counsel. While Sam concedes that Reed was never counsel of record in the case, he maintains that Reed agreed to advise him “behind the scenes . . . .” According to Sam, Reed provided legal advice through October 26, 2004. Reed’s affair with Rebecca ended between August and October 2004.
Among other interesting holdings, the Court concluded that this was the ultimate “frolic or detour” that placed the affair outside of the scope of employment for the attorney:
Given this Court’s earlier conclusion that the subject affair was not in any way “related to the representation or arising therefrom[,]” see ¶ 36 supra (quoting Tyson, 613 So. 2d at 827), along with Sam’s admission that the affair was not “motivated by a desire to benefit Baker Donelson” and the absence of any evidence that anyone at Baker Donelson other than Reed, was aware of the “secret and covert” affair prior to Sam’s demand on November 12, 2004, this Court concludes that this is the type of frolic “so clearly beyond an employee’s course and scope of employment that [it] cannot form the basis for a claim of vicarious liability, as a matter of law.” Children’s Medical Group, 940 So. 2d at 935.