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Stewart v. Wisinger

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division

July 3, 2019

CYNTHIA R. STEWART PLAINTIFF
v.
MELISSA ANN “MISSY” WISINGER DEFENDANT
v.
LAWRENCE STEWART THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT

          ORDER

          DAVID BRAMLETTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant Melissa Ann Wisinger (“Missy”)'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 30); Plaintiff Cynthia Stewart (“Cynthia”)'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 34); and Third-Party Defendant Lawrence Stewart (“Dr. Stewart”)'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 36). For the reasons discussed below, these motions for summary judgment (Docs. 30, 34, and 36) are DENIED.

         Background

         This is an alienation of affection case. Cynthia originally brought this case against Missy, alleging several claims arising out of the extramarital affair between Missy and Cynthia's husband, Dr. Stewart. Since then, each party has moved for summary judgment, arguing that different parties cannot prove one or more elements of their claims under Mississippi law.[1]

         Until December 2015, Dr. Stewart had an Otolaryngology a/k/a Ear, Nose, and Throat practice in McComb, Mississippi. Doc. 1, p. 2. In early 2014, Missy was a patient of Dr. Stewart's business partner and encountered Dr. Stewart. Doc. 36, p. 1. Dr. Stewart also began treating Missy and her children. Id. In Spring 2014, Missy and Dr. Stewart engaged in an extramarital[2] relationship. Doc. 1, p. 2; Doc. 31, p. 2; Doc. 36, p. 1.

         Cynthia and Dr. Stewart allege that Missy confessed the affair to her husband and that either Missy or her husband contacted state and federal law enforcement officials as well as the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure (“the Board”) to report Dr. Stewart's affair with his patient. Doc. 1, p. 2; Doc. 36, p. 1. Missy became a confidential informant aiding the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) in an investigation of Dr. Stewart. Doc. 1, p. 2; Doc. 31, p. 2; Doc. 36, p. 2. Dr. Stewart was arrested, pled guilty to a single felony charge, and was sentenced by the United States District Court in September 2016.

         The Board allowed Dr. Stewart to maintain his medical license with certain conditions, including his participation in programs for physicians who have engaged in improper activity while practicing medicine. Doc. 37, p. 2. Dr. Stewart was terminated from his medical practice by his business partner. Id. Dr. Stewart and Cynthia allege that Dr. Stewart's license conditions and felony conviction have prevented Dr. Stewart from practicing medicine. Doc. 37, p. 2; Doc. 1, p. 3. They contend that this resulted in financial consequences, which “caused them to lose their home in McComb, Pike County, Mississippi, and directly resulted in [Cynthia] having to move to the State of Florida to reside with and/or near relatives.” Doc. 1, p. 3; Doc. 37; p. 2. They also allege that Missy and/or her husband “further provided information to private individuals, including but not limited to Bryan Harbour, in Pike and Lincoln Counties, Mississippi, who then disseminated that information to the general public.” Doc. 34, p. 2; Doc. 36, p. 2.

         Cynthia sued Missy, claiming negligent infliction of emotional distress; negligence and gross negligence; and alienation of affection. See Doc. 1, pp. 4-6. Cynthia seeks damages and injunctive relief to prohibit Missy from contacting Dr. Stewart. Doc. 1, p. 6. Missy responded with counterclaims, claiming malicious prosecution and negligent infliction of emotional distress against Cynthia. See Doc. 5, pp. 7-8. Missy added third-party defendant Dr. Stewart to this cause, demanding relief for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress; and negligence and gross negligence. Doc. 5, p. 10. Each party has moved for summary judgment.

         I

         Summary judgment is proper if a party shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). If the movant shows the absence of a disputed material fact, the non-movant “must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” McCarty v. Hillstone Rest. Grp., Inc., 864 F.3d 354, 357 (5th Cir. 2017).

         The Court views facts and draws reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Vann v. City of Southaven, Miss., 884 F.3d 307, 309 (5th Cir. 2018). The Court neither assesses credibility nor weighs evidence at the summary-judgment stage. Gray v. Powers, 673 F.3d 352, 354 (5th Cir. 2012).

         II

         Missy moves for summary judgment on Cynthia's alienation of affection claim. See Doc. 31.

         An alienation of affection claim requires a finding of the following elements: (1) wrongful conduct of the defendant; (2) loss of affection or consortium; and (3) causal connection between such conduct and loss. Hancock v. Watson, 962 So.2d 627, 630 (Miss. Ct. App. 2007); Fitch v. Valentine, 959 So.2d 1012, 1025 (Miss. 2007). Alienation of affection is a recognized cause of action in Mississippi, the purpose of which is to protect the marriage relationship and provide a remedy for intentional conduct that causes a loss of consortium. Fitch v. Valentine, 959 So.2d 1012, 1020 (Miss. 2007).

         The Mississippi Supreme Court held, “where a husband is wrongfully deprived of his rights to the ‘services and companionship and consortium of his wife,' he has a cause of action ‘against one who has interfered with his domestic relations.'” Camp v. Roberts, 462 So.2d 726, 727 (Miss. 1985)(citing Walter v. Wilson,228 So.2d ...


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