Hunt v. Hunt, 13138

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Citation309 N.W.2d 818
Docket NumberNo. 13138,13138
PartiesBonnie HUNT, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Kay HUNT, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date22 September 1981

Page 818

309 N.W.2d 818
Bonnie HUNT, Plaintiff and Appellee,
Kay HUNT, Defendant and Appellant.
No. 13138.
Supreme Court of South Dakota.
Argued March 23, 1981.
Decided Aug. 26, 1981.
Rehearing Denied Sept. 22, 1981.

Page 819

Steven L. Jorgensen, Sioux Falls, for plaintiff and appellee.

Gene Paul Kean of May, Johnson, Doyle & Becker, P. C., Sioux Falls, for defendant and appellant.



Appellant Kay Hunt appeals from a judgment entered pursuant to a jury verdict rendered in favor of appellee Bonnie Hunt, and also from the trial court's order denying various post-trial motions made by appellant. Appellee instituted an action to recover damages on two counts: alienation of affections and criminal conversation. The jury found appellant liable to appellee on both counts for an aggregate total of $50,000. Appellant urges this Court, inter alia, to abolish alienation of affections and criminal conversation as causes of action in this state.

All five justices would abolish the action for criminal conversation in South Dakota. Two of the justices would also abolish the action for alienation of affections. Three of the justices would preserve the action for aliention of affections but concur in the result of the majority opinion for the reason that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the alienation of affections' action. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.



Did appellant raise the issue now urged on appeal at the trial court level? We hold that she did.


Should the common law torts of alienation of affections and criminal conversation be judicially abolished? Chief Justice Wollman and I hold in the affirmative on both causes of action.



Appellee challenges appellant's right to now raise the issue of the abolition of the doctrines of alienation of affections and criminal conversation due to appellant's alleged failure to present this question to the trial court. Estate of Assmus, 254 N.W.2d 159 (S.D.1977). By authority of SDCL 15-6-12(b) (5), 1 however, appellant filed a pretrial

Page 820

motion to dismiss appellee's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The trial court denied this motion at the commencement of the trial. This motion was renewed subsequent to trial as incorporated in appellant's motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for a new trial.

In American Technical Machinery Corporation v. Masterpiece Enterprises, Inc., 235 F.Supp. 917, 918 (M.D.Pa.1964), the court there held: "A motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted admits the facts alleged in the complaint, but challenges the plaintiff's right to relief." A motion to dismiss under Fed.Rule 12(b)(6) (federal counterpart to SDCL 15-6-12(b)(5)) tests the law of a plaintiff's claim and not the facts which support it. Yuba Consolidated Gold Fields v. Kilkeary, 206 F.2d 884 (9th Cir. 1953); Niece v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 293 F.Supp. 792 (N.D.Okl.1968); Bing v. General Motors Acceptance Corporation, 237 F.Supp. 911 (E.D.S.C.1965). Accordingly, we hold that appellant sufficiently raised the issue at the trial court level as to whether the doctrines relied upon in appellee's complaint should be abolished.


In light of our ultimate holding, we do not deem it necessary to recite the specific facts and circumstances which prompted this action. Suffice it to say that appellee brought suit against appellant for the purpose of recovering damages for (1) alienation of affections and loss of consortium allegedly caused by appellant's interference with the marriage of appellee and her ex-husband and (2) carnal intercourse with her ex-husband.

The essential elements of a cause of action for alienation of affections are: (1) wrongful conduct of the defendant; (2) loss of affection or consortium; and (3) a causal connection between such conduct and loss. Morey v. Keller, 77 S.D. 49, 85 N.W.2d 57 (1957). The tort of criminal conversation allows one to maintain an action for damages if it is shown that his or her spouse committed adultery with the defendant; the only defenses to this action are consent by the plaintiff or the statute of limitations. Giltner v. Stark, 219 N.W.2d 700 (Iowa 1974); see Pearsall v. Colgan, 76 S.D. 241, 76 N.W.2d 620 (1956). "Criminal conversation ... and alienation of affections still are often treated as separate torts, but there is no good reason for distinguishing them. They (both) represent ... forms of interference with aspects of the same relational interest, and ... may be present in the same case." W. Prosser, The Law of Torts § 124, at 876-877 (4th ed. 1980).

The right to recover under the doctrines of alienation of affections and criminal conversation is of common-law origin, and exists independent of any statute. Holmstrom v. Wall, 64 S.D. 467, 268 N.W. 423 (1936); Moberg v. Scott, 38 S.D. 422, 161 N.W. 998 (1917). This common law origin exists despite our Legislature's subsequent recognition of the doctrines through various codified references. 2

The recent tenor of the courts and legislatures across the country is toward the

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abolishment of alienation of affections and criminal conversation as legal causes of action. To date, seventeen states and the District of Columbia have statutorily abolished alienation actions. Ariz.Rev.Stat.Ann. § 25-341 (West Supp.1980-81); Cal.Civ.Code § 43.5 (West 1954); Colo.Rev.Stat. § 13-20-202 (1973); Conn.Gen.Stat.Ann. § 52-572b (1977); D.C.Code Encycl. § 16-923 (West Supp.1978-79); Del.Code Ann. tit. 10, § 3924 (1975); Ga.Code Ann. § 105-1203 (Harrison Supp.1980); Ind.Stat.Ann. § 34-4-4-1 (Burns Supp.1980); Me.Rev.Stat.Ann. tit. 19, § 167 (West Supp.1980-81); Md.Ann.Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 5-301(a) (1980); Mich.Stat.Ann. § 600.2901 (1968); Minn.Stat.Ann. § 553.01 (West Supp.1980); Mont.Code Ann. § 27-1-601 (1979); Nev.Rev.Stat. § 41.380 (1979); Or.Rev.Stat. § 30.840 (1975); Va.Code § 8.01-220 (1977); W.Va.Code § 56-3-2a (Michie Supp.1980); Wyo.Stat. § 1-23-101 (1977).

Both Iowa and Washington have judicially abolished the action for alienation of affections. Fundermann v. Mickelson, 304 N.W.2d 790 (Iowa 1981); Wyman v. Wallace, 94 Wash.2d 99, 615 P.2d 452 (1980). The courts of Louisiana have never recognized alienation actions. Moulin v. Monteleone, 165 La. 169, 115 So. 447 (1927), accord, Ohlausen v. Brown, 372 So.2d 787 (La.App.1979).

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming have all abolished by statute the doctrine of criminal conversation. Cal.Civ.Code § 43.5 (West 1954); Colo.Rev.Stat.Ann. § 13-20-202 (1973); Conn.Gen.Stat. § 52-572b to 52-572f (1977); Del.Code Ann. 10 § 3924 (1975); Fla.Stat.Ann. 771.01 (1976); Ind.Stat.Ann. 34-4-4-1 (Burns Supp.1977); Mich.Comp. Laws 551.301 (1967); N.J.Stat.Ann. § 2A:23-1 (1952); N.Y.Civ.Rights Law 80-a (McKinney 1976); Or.Rev.Stat. 30.840 and 30.850 (1977); Vt.Stat.Ann. tit. 15, § 1001 (Supp.1977); Va.Code § 8.01-220 (1977); Wis.Stat.Ann. 248.01 (Supp.1977-1978); Wyo.Stat.Ann. § 1-728 (1959).

The Supreme Courts of Iowa and Pennsylvania have abolished actions for criminal conversation in their respective states. Bearbower v. Merry, 266 N.W.2d 128 (Iowa 1978); Fadgen v. Lenkner, 469 Pa. 272, 365 A.2d 147 (1976).

Money damages are not recoverable for alienation actions in six states. Ala.Code tit. 6, § 5-331 (1978) (abolishes recovery for females 19 years or older) (injunction still permitted), see Logan v. Davidson, 282 Ala. 327, 330, 211 So.2d 461, 463 (1968); Fla.Stat.Ann. § 771.01 (West 1964); N.J.Stat.Ann. § 2A:23-1 (West 1952); N.Y.Civ. Rights Law § 80-a (Lawyers Coop. 1974); Ohio Rev.Code Ann. § 2305.29 (Supp.1979); Vt.Stat.Ann. tit. 15, § 1001 (1976).

In accord with these authorities, we believe that alienation of affections and criminal conversation, as viable legal remedies, are outmoded archaic holdovers from an era when wives 3 were considered the chattel of their spouse rather than distinct legal entities. Wives are not...

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