SIOUX FALLS, S.D.D (KELO) — Affairs are not uncommon, and they often break up marriages. However, in South Dakota, the jilted spouse has a legal recourse only available in six states. They can sue the third party, who they believe interfered with their marriage, for alienation of affection.
It’s a law whose roots date back centuries to when a wife was considered her husband’s property. KELOLAND Investigates has uncovered a new case of alienation of affection against a Sioux Falls businessman who has been sued for the very same thing in the past. Plus, we take an in-depth look at how alienation of affection cases have played out and why some say the law needs to go.
A marriage ends
Gery Baar was married to his wife, Denise, for 17 years. But there were a few bumps in the road.
“Actually, Jud Pins and my wife, Denise, started an affair in 1996 and I uncovered it then and Denise and I reconciled. And for three years, our marriage was better than ever,” Baar said.
However, Baar claims Denise started seeing Pins again.
“I confronted her and she admitted it. One surprising thing that she said to me is that they were talking about marriage. So, Pins was providing a path for her away from my marriage,” Baar said.
Gery and Denise Baar divorced and Gery sued Pins for alienation of affection.
“I might still be married, and my family might still be together if it weren’t for Jud Pins. Part of the reasoning for doing it with no-fault divorce; you know my wife cheated on me, but with no-fault divorce, she was still entitled to 50 percent of whatever property and investments and wealth I had and so an alienation of affection lawsuit is the only recourse to correct that unfairness,” Baar said.
Gery settled his alienation of affection case with Pins out of court and can’t disclose the terms. Pins eventually married Denise.
“I felt I had a very strong case–lots of evidence. But at the time, my children weren’t aware of all that had transpired, and I was protecting my kids from that. I did not want it to go to trial. I wanted to spare them from all that public humiliation,” Baar said.
Pins sued insurance company to cover settlement
Jud Pins then sued his insurance company, State Farm, for refusing to cover the claim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision that State Farm must pay the claim, saying that any loss to an injured spouse in an alienation of affection was expected or intended and could not be considered a covered accident under Pin’s policy.
Attorney specializes in alienation of affection cases
“Alienation of affection is an intentional torte. In other words, it’s more than just an affair. An affair isn’t against the law in any state.” Christenson said.
Attorney Bob Christenson has represented many plaintiffs in alienation of affection cases in South Dakota.
“Alienation of affection, you have to show the defendant intended to pursue the spouse, alienated the marriage, caused damage to the marriage,” Christensen said.
First big settlement case in South Dakota
Alienation of affection cases are typically only brought when assets are involved. In Christenson’s 2002 case, Jones v. Swanson, a South Dakota jury in federal court awarded the husband $950,000 in damages from a Las Vegas orthopedic surgeon for alienation of affection.
“The defendant through emails, text messages, cards, trips, pursued the wife and the jury agreed–awarded–that was the largest case to this day: $950,000,” Christenson said.
However, that amount was reduced to $400,000 on appeal.
New alienation of affection lawsuit filed against Pins
Christenson is now representing a different man who is also suing Jud Pins for alienation of affection. Pete Sanchez filed a civil case against Pins, accusing him of interfering with his marriage to Adeline Sanchez. According to the lawsuit, Sanchez claims that Pins, “began a pattern of communicating with Ms. Sanchez on a nearly daily basis and began to make sexual advances. According to documents filed in civil court, Sanchez claims Pins made 130 phone calls to Ms. Sanchez and they traveled together on a business trip sponsored by Pins’ company.
“Well, we believe that he affected the marital relationship. What I have come to believe with alienation of affection cases is that it protects the marital relationship, and it puts a value on that,” Chirstenson said.
I spoke to Jud Pins on the phone, and he declined an on-camera interview. He told me Pete Sanchez has zero evidence of his claims of alienation of affection and that the lawsuit is simply an attempt to extort money from him.
“That’s one thing about this case I’d like to get across too. Most people aren’t concerned about the money. They’re concerned about resolution. What the heck happened. And if someone steals someone’s wife away, husband away, they want to know why and they want to send the message–you shouldn’t have done this. And don’t do it again,” Christenson said.
Pins also issued KELOLAND Investigates a written statement:
“I am sorry that the lawsuit filed against me has become the subject of media attention. First, I did not alienate the affections of Mr. Sanchez’s ex-wife. My wife and I have been happily married for over a decade. I have repeatedly and unequivocally stated that Mr. Sanchez’s claim is without merit. Second, I know Mr. Sanchez’s recent divorce was contentious and acrimonious. But that had nothing to do with me. Mr. Sanchez’s own ex-wife has confirmed, under oath, that the claim against me is unfounded, unjustified, and unfair. Finally, I am not the only person Mr. Sanchez has recently accused of alienating his ex-wife’s affections. He has made an identical claim against at least one other individual. I will continue to defend myself against Mr. Sanchez’s meritless claim in Court.”Jud Pins statement to KELOLAND Investigates through his attorney, Derek Nelson
Sachez’ attorney, Christenson, responded by saying, “early on in the investigation of the case, we did consider that maybe someone other than Defendant Pins alienated the affections of Mr. Sanchez’s spouse. After communication with this person’s attorney, we were convinced we were mistaken and thereafter solely focused on Defendant Pins.”
While Pins facing a second lawsuit for alienation of affection is unprecedented, it’s not the only high-profile case in the state.
High profile alienation of affection case against former prosecutor
In 2012, then-Pennington County state’s attorney, Glenn Brenner, was sued for nearly $300,000 by Doug Rumpca who claimed that Brenner caused his wife, Kellie, to lose her affection for him.
The case went to the Supreme Court before being sent back to a lower court for trial. In the end, a jury ruled in Brenner’s favor. Brenner later married Kellie and the two now live in Texas. They declined to comment for this story.
His attorney said this to KELOLAND News in 2012:
“Cases like this will cause, I think, many people to step back and say is this law really something that serves a strong public interest or not?” Attorney Daniel Duffy said in 2012.
Efforts to get rid of law failed
“I’m not sure the government has any business being in the personal lives of marriage,” Magstadt said.
Melissa Magstadt, of Watertown, is a former state lawmaker who unsuccessfully attempted to do away with the alienation of affection law in the legislature in 2012.
“It’s such an old, old, antiquated law, from the turn of the century–not this century, but the old century that was put in place as a property law, that women–and at the time it was women, who were owned by their husbands,” Magstadt said.
It wasn’t until 2002, that the legislature changed the law allowing women to also sue for loss of affection of their husbands.
“If there’s a problem within the marriage, it’s a problem between these two, not this one. And what’s really interesting about alienation of affection laws is that you’re not having a problem with this person, you’re not suing this person—when all this person had to do was say no,” Magstadt said.
Kennecke: What is your response to that, that the law it outdated, archaic, sexist, all of those things?
Baar: It isn’t that at all. You own your marriage. You own your relationship; you own your family. You don’t own another person, but your marriage–you own that. It affected me a great deal. I went through many years of depression and anxiety, that I battled, and it took me many years to recover. My children were harmed. Thank God they’re all doing well now.
“No one comes out the winner in this, including the children, including that married couple, including this gentleman or lady over here that wasn’t even a part of their marriage. Nobody wins in this,” Magstadt says.
This is why many of these cases never make it to trial.
Kennecke: Do you expect this case to go to trial?
Christenson: The Pins case?
Christenson: Most of them don’t. We resolve them. But it might.
Magstadt says the fact that only a handful of states still have this law on the books should tell you something.
“I look forward to the day when we are down to zero on that because people are not property. Everyone can decide yes or no if they are going to leave a marriage or not and heart balm laws don’t soothe the spirit of anyone who has gone through a divorce or an affair, they just don’t, Magstadt said.Melissa Magstadt, former South Dakota State Representative
The Sanchezes are now divorced. Peter Sanchez declined to comment on his lawsuit. We reached out to the women at the center of the two Pins’ alienation of affection cases, Denise Pins and Adeline Sanchez, but did not get a response. We will continue to follow the Sanchez case and let you know of any resolution.
South Dakota and North Carolina, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico and Utah states with alienation of affection laws.
According to the South Dakota Supreme Court:
To recover damages for alienation of affections, Plaintiff must prove each of the following elements by greater convincing force of the evidence:
(1) Defendant intended from the outset to entice the affection of one spouse away from the other.
(2) The acts of the Defendant were the proximate cause of the loss of the affection or consortium of Plaintiff’s spouse.
3) The nature and extent of damages suffered by the Plaintiff as a proximate result of the Defendant’s conduct