Patricia Walker was no doubt flattered. While many husband have to be pushed to bring even flowers on their wife’s birthday, Walker’s husband Bobby Tennison showered her with gifts from Neiman Marcus — $1.4 million worth of gifts ($850,000 in 2009 alone). Then Walker discovered that Tennison was having an affair with her “personal shopper” at Neiman. Even the woman’s name seems to come out of a dime novel, Favi Lo. It was a clever concept for an affair: the wife gets a steady stream of gifts, the mistress gets commissions on the gifts, the husband gets the mistress. If true, it is like the Trade Triangle of Affair but instead of Molasses to Rum to Slaves, Tennison created Gifts to Commissions to Sex. Here is the really groovy part: Walker is suing Neiman Marcus.
What is particularly cunning is that the gifts from jewelry to glass sculptures to furs, were paid by Walker’s credit card. Normally, Walker would spend $100,000 a year at Neiman Marcus.
Walker says that Neiman “directly profited from Lo’s conduct and deceit.” She insists that, had she known, she would never have accepted the gifts and that the purchases therefore amounted to fraud.
It is hard to see how this would be a meritorious claim unless she is arguing that Neiman was knowingly running a stable of prostitutes like some retail pimp. For its part, Neiman Marcus simply says that customers may return, for credit, any items with which they “are not completely satisfied.” They should not be surprised to find a Robert “Bobby” Tennison, 65, tied up in a Neiman bag in the morning seeking a full refund.
As for Favi Lo, she is fortunate that this occurred in Texas which does not recognize alienation of affection as a tort. Texas Family Code 1.107 states, “A right of action by one spouse against a third party for alienation of affection is not authorized in this state.”
By the way, this is not the first tort action involving such allegations against Neiman Marcus in Dallas. In 1952, there was a New York case involving a claim of “group libel.” In Neiman-Marcus v. Lait, 13 FRD 311 (SDNY 1952), employees of that high-end store sued the author of a book titled “U.S.A. Confidential.” The book claimed that some of the models at the store and all of the saleswomen in the Dallas store were “call girls.” It further stated that most of the salesmen in the men’s department were “faggots.” The issue came down to the size of the group. With 382 saleswomen and models, the court found that the group was too large. However, with the 25 salesmen, the court found that an action could be maintained. That was before the fetching fetcher Favi Lo, of course.
On a final note. Sometime I just love the law.