The Price of Love
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
They say you can't put a price tag on love. That true love is more valuable than money. That money can't buy you happiness.
Apparently they're wrong.
If you're Johnny Valentine of Holly Springs, Mississippi, it turns out you can put a price tag on love. Actually, you can put a price tag on "society, companionship, love, and affection," plus "the loss of sexual relations."
To Valentine, that's worth $750,000.
That's how much Mississippi millionaire Jerry Fitch has to pay Valentine after stealing Valentine's wife.
In 1997, Sandra Valentine went to work for Fitch, a prominent businessman, oil man, and big-shot real estate guy. Shortly thereafter, Fitch and Sandra began having an affair, and in 1999, she gave birth to Fitch's daughter.
Which means Valentine can't make any "son of a Fitch" jokes.
Sandra originally denied the affair or that their new daughter wasn't Valentine's. But after a paternity test revealed Fitch was the father, Valentine divorced his two-timing wife, and Sandra married her lover.
Just a slow day at the office for Jerry Springer.
Mississippi has an old state law that permits a spouse to sue for damages based on the aforementioned loss of society, companionship, yadda yadda yadda. So Valentine decided that as the cuckolded husband, he was entitled to some of Fitch's riches.
Valentine was granted the three-quarters of a mil by a Mississippi jury, but Fitch must have thought Sandra wasn't worth it, because he appealed the verdict to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Valentine won again, so Fitch appealed it again to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the Supremes refused to hear the appeal, thus upholding the lower court's ruling.
In other words, while money can't buy happiness, Fitch bought himself $750,000 worth of society, companionship, love, affection, and sexual relations.
Which means Fitch will spend the rest of his life wondering if it would have just been simpler to register at eHarmony.com instead.
I hope she's worth it. I wouldn't even pay five bucks to shake Paris Hilton's hand.
Valentine's suit was based on an antiquated law that says a wife is a man's property, just like cattle. And when Fitch stole his property, Valentine thought he deserved compensation.
(The concept of wife as property goes all the way back to the Teutonic tribes of 10th century Germany, so if you want to write any angry letters, write to the Germans, not me.)
Sandra should feel proud that she's worth $750,000 to Fitch. Whenever she wonders whether he really loves her, he can show her the checkbook and say "I love you thi-i-i-i-s much." And she can also rest assured that he won't cheat on her again, since he's so heavily invested in the relationship.
Many women, including Sandra, are offended that the "women as property" law is still on the books in Mississippi. They don't think they should be treated as cattle.
But if Sandra really was cattle, Fitch got the short end of the deal.
Last February, two Kansas men stole 133 head of cattle worth more than $140,000. At those prices, Fitch could have gotten a herd of nearly 713 steer.
And he got off easy. Apparently, cattle rustling is still a hanging offense in Colorado.
Meanwhile, Mississippi is one of only seven states to have the "alienation of affection" statute on the books – Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah are the others.
In other words, Colorado places a higher value -- your life -- on cattle than those other states place on a man's wife.
Talk about your family values.
Mississippi is not the only state to award big damages. In 2001, North Carolina awarded $2 million -- 1,901 cattle -- in a similar case in 2001.
Does this mean that Mississippi wives aren't worth as much as North Carolina wives? Or did Valentine just shoot too low?
In October 2007, Fitch told "Good Morning America," that his case was about principle, not just the money.
Not just the money? Not JUST the money?
In other words, it's partly about the money.
Which makes me wonder if Fitch might be looking at his new wife and seeing her head atop a big bag of money with wings on it. Like in the cartoons when a dog looks at a cat and sees a big steak.
"This alienation of affection law is only in seven states in the United States now," Fitch told Good Morning America. "It needs to be off the books. This is not right."
Maybe not, but neither is adultery or coveting a man's wife. Just be happy you're not living in the Old Testament days where they stoned you for that.
They just fined you if you stole livestock.