Jan. 9, 2008 — -- A Mississippi millionaire must pay $750,000 to the man whose wife he stole away, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
Sandra Valentine had been married to plumber Johnny Valentine for four years when she began working for Holly Springs, Miss., businessman Jerry Fitch Sr.
Within a year, Sandra and Fitch, who was also married, began an affair. When Sandra got pregnant, Johnny, who suspected she was cheating, ordered a paternity test, which showed he was not the father.
Johnny filed for divorce and then sued Fitch, claiming "alienation of affection," or, in other words, stealing his wife's love.
Johnny won more than $750,000 in state court, and the verdict was upheld by the state Supreme Court. Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, ending Fitch's appeal.
Law Says a Wife Is Husband's Property
Mississippi is one of only seven states that still allow lawsuits over claims of "spousal theft." The others are Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Mississippi.
The law essentially says that a wife is a man's property, a notion many women, including Sandra Valentine, find offensive.
"I don't consider myself property," Sandra said in October on "Good Morning America." "Not Johnny's, not anyone's. Just my own."
Her husband has claimed their marriage was fine until Sandra went to work for Fitch, which she denied.
"No, that's not true. Johnny had gambling problems," Sandra said. "It took a period of about six years to destroy our marriage."
She said she did not leave the marriage earlier because of her children.
Fitch told "GMA" that the case was about principle, not just the money.
"This alienation-of-affection law is only in seven states in the United States now," he said. "It needs to be off the books. This is not right."
Sandra said, however, that she believes the lawsuit is about one thing for her ex-husband.
"Just the money," she said. "He had already alienated my affection with gambling, so the marriage was already over before I met Jerry. So he's wrong."