(CN) - A woman held liable for ending another couple's marriage must pay the spurned wife $88,000, a Mississippi appeals court ruled.
Chrissy and Chuck Strickland were married in 1996 and had a son in 1998. Though Chuck testified that their marriage had "ups and downs," Chrissy characterized it as relatively good, but not perfect.
After arguing on a 2007 camping trip, Chrissy left with the park with the couple's son, Wilder.
Chuck started to talk with a fellow camper, Melissa Simmons, who was also with her then-husband, Lane Simmons. Their chats continued after the trip, with a total 158 phone calls between the two in an eight-week span.
Once Chuck and Melissa confessed their mutual feelings to their respective spouses, both couples separated on Sept. 17, 2007.
Chuck and Melissa both testified that they did not sleep together before that date.
Wilder testified, however, that he saw them in bed together that summer, and Lane found a contraceptive sponge in the bathroom he shared with Melissa, despite the fact that he had undergone a vasectomy.
Both couples divorced in 2008, and Chuck married Melissa. Also that year, Chrissy sued Melissa for alienation of affection and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The trial court ruled in Chrissy's favor, awarding her $87,500 on those claims, plus $500 in punitive damages.
The Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed last week Melissa was to blame for the breakup of the Stricklands' marriage.
"Notably, the cell phone records show that Melissa called Chuck more than twice as much as he called her," Judge Kenneth Griffis wrote for the court on Nov. 29. "A few months later, Chuck abandoned the marriage, saying that he was in love with Melissa."
"Based on these facts, there was sufficient evidence for the jury to infer that, but for Melissa's active interference, the marriage of Chuck and Chrissy probably would not have ended," Griffis added.
The three-judge panel also agreed that Melissa could not call a witness to speak about Chrissy's first marriage before she met Chuck. Melissa claims Chrissy's first ex-husband would testify that Chrissy left him because of an adulterous affair with Chuck.
Since such testimony would have been irrelevant and prejudicial, the trial court had barred it. Melissa failed to cite "relevant authority" in challenging this finding on appeal, Griffis wrote.
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