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Indecent Proposal - Breach of Promise to Marry
"Have an abortion and I’ll pay you $75,000 divorce my wife and Marry You!!"

How is that for an indecent proposal! Imagine how much more indecent the proposal becomes if after the abortion, the promising party fails to follow through on the other promises. This issue has been addressed recently by Minnesota’s Appellate Court.

Mike is married when he meets Rebecca. Despite his marriage, Mike and Rebecca become fast friends. That friendship quickly blossoms into a covert romantic relationship. All seems to be going well when Mike is contacted by an attorney representing Rebecca. The attorney informs Mike that Rebecca is pregnant with his child. Concerned about the pregnancy, Mike also hires an attorney in the hopes of negotiating a settlement.

To settle the matter, Mike makes two offers: (1) to pay child support for the minor child after it is born and paternity is established; or (2) to negotiate a settlement with Rebecca that does not involve a child or support. As the negotiations proceed, Mike offers Rebecca $75,000 plus medical and legal expenses to terminate the pregnancy. He also promises that as soon as the pregnancy has been terminated he will divorce his wife and marry her, reassuring Rebecca that they can have many children in the future.

Rebecca agrees and the parties sign a formalized agreement that states each has entered into the agreement free of coercion or duress and that after the payment of medical expenses, attorney fees and $75,000 Rebecca will release Mike from any further obligations.

Rebecca has the abortion performed in Wisconsin after a 24 hour statutory waiting period.

After the abortion, Mike refuses to marry Rebecca and Rebecca files a lawsuit seeking monetary compensation for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, battery, fraud and misrepresentation. In the complaint filed with the Court Rebecca alleges that Mike breached his promise to marry her and stated that she suffered psychological damages by being coerced into an unwanted abortion.

Although the names have been changed and the facts are slightly altered, a case such as this was recently addressed by Minnesota’s Court of Appeals raising the questions:

  • Can a jilted lover sue for a breach of promise to marry?
  • Can a person who is paid to have an abortion sue under claims of tort?

The Court of Appeals answered - "NO" to both questions.

In its opinion, the Court stated that in 1978 the Minnesota state legislature abolished civil actions for:

  • seduction;
  • breaches of promises to marry;
  • alienation of affections, and
  • criminal conversations.

That law is now codified in Minnesota Statutes S. 553.01-03. The reason for abolishing these claims is set out specifically in the statute itself which states:

"Actions based on alleged alienation of affections, criminal conversations, seduction and breach of contract to marry, have been subject to grave abuses, have caused intimidation and harassment, to innocent persons and have resulted in the perpetuation of frauds. It is declared as the public policy of the state that the best interests of the people of the state will be served by the abolition of these causes of action." Minn. Stat S. 553.01.

Despite the fact that the Petitioner did not raise the claim of a "Breach of Promise to Marry" by that title, the appellate court found that the causes of action filed by the plaintiff for fraud, emotional distress and battery were amounted to the same thing. The essence of each of plaintiff’s claims was that the Defendant promised to leave his wife, marry the plaintiff and to have a baby with her in the near future. As a result the damages or injuries alleged by the plaintiff arise out of the breach of the promise to marry. The Court went on to state that it did not matter whether the defendant intended to coerce the Plaintiff by intentionally lying about his intention to divorce his wife and marry plaintiff. Even if that was the case, the statute, as written clearly abolishes promise to marry actions.

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Minnesota is a no-fault only state. The divorce petition must state either that the parties have been living separate and apart for 180 days or more or that there is "serious marital discord" with no chance of reconciliation. All fault grounds, such as adultery, cruelty and insanity are no longer recognized in Minnesota.
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