By: LISA R. WILSON
This week, a Florida woman was awarded $150,000 after suing her former fiancé for calling off their wedding, based upon her leaving a high-paying job in Pensacola to live with the prospective partner and settle down as his bride. “I was a little bit surprised, but I was thrilled with the ruling,” RoseMary Shell told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira on Friday. “I felt like justice was really done.” Oh, the bouncing ball of justice. Although this ruling was quite surprising to a lot of folks and undoubtedly caused many preceding, left-at-the-alter women to be high-fiving in the aisles, it was not completely outlandish, and actually, quite legal.
Under contract law, there exists a measure known as “reliance damages.” This is a form of compensation given to a person who suffered economic harm for acting in reliance on a party who failed to fulfill their obligation. The amount of compensation can be based upon many factors, such as damages resulting from the loss of a job, loss of property, etc.
For Wayne Gibbs, the ex-fiancé, his failure to fulfill his matrimonial obligation to his would-be bride cost him. “Mr. Gibbs feels that the verdict did not accurately reflect the evidence and will appeal,” said Hammond Law, Gibbs’ attorney.
Trouble in paradise began for the couple back in 2006. After years of off-and-on dating, Gibbs asked Shell to move to Gainesville to live with him, and proposed with a 2-carat diamond engagement ring. Shell said yes, and a wedding date was set. About a month after Shell moved in, Gibbs expressed second thoughts and wanted to postpone the wedding. After a few months of trying to iron out some problems, the couple officially split in March 2007. Based upon Shell leaving a very lucrative job and a home in Pensacola, she chose to take legal action and sued for damages three months later.
“He made a promise to me and I relied on that promise and gave up a lot of things because of that promise,” Shell explained. “And I suffered significantly for it.” After hearing the case, a Hall County jury awarded Shell $150,000. “We really debated quite extensively whether to bring the case,” said Lydia Sartain, Shell’s attorney. “But we just felt so strongly that in this case he had told her to quit her job and she relied on his promise. When you give your word to do something and you cause people to rely on it to their detriment, then you may be held accountable for any damages that you cause.”
So head’s up, gents and ladies, and be careful what you promise. In the future, breaking up with your significant other may not only be bad for the heart, but bad for the wallet. Good luck.
For more information on divorce or reliance damages, contact a Family Law attorney in your area today.
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