Bigamy Can Lead to Misrepresentation Claim in Maryland

795735_i_love_youIn the recent case Bradley v. Bradley, the Maryland Court of Appeals considered the questions raised when a woman sued a man she believed to be her husband for intentional negligent misrepresentation. Mr. Bradley and Ms. Bradley met in 2003 at Kennedy Krieger Institute. Ms. Bradley was responsible for Mr. Bradley’s son and was often in contact with Mr. Bradley who was then married with three kids. The next year, Mr. Bradley told Ms. Bradley that he had separated from his wife and started divorce proceedings. They commenced a long extramarital affair.

In 2006, after claiming that there had been various problems in the divorce proceedings, Mr. Bradley announced that his divorce was final. He proposed to Ms. Bradley. In 2007, the couple married in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ms. Bradley experienced two incidents of battery by Mr. Bradley before she checked previous domestic violence cases to see what his history was. The records revealed that Mr. Bradley’s divorce was not listed. Mr. Bradley confessed he had never obtained the divorce from his first wife. He and Ms. Bradley separated.

After Ms. Bradley underwent some therapy, she wanted to reconcile with Mr. Bradley, have him divorce his first wife, annul their marriage, and remarry. Mr. Bradley divorced his first wife, but didn’t do anything to complete her other requests. Accordingly she filed to annul the marriage. He stalked her. She amended her complaint to include some additional claims, including intentional and negligent misrepresentation. Years ago, Maryland abolished by statute the cause of action for breach of promise to marry (except in instances where a party is pregnant).

Throughout the trial, the trial judge used case law to distinguish between the causes of action that were misrepresentation causes of action and those that were really breach of promise to marry causes of action that have been abolished by statute in Maryland. The judge limited what was presented to the jury on the basis of the distinction. Mr. Bradley lost at trial. The Baltimore County jury found in favor of Mr. Bradley’s second wife, awarding $287,000 in compensatory damages, as well as $1,000 each for two counts of battery, and $180,000 in punitive damages.

On appeal, among other issues, Mr. Bradley argued that what the trial judge considered the intentional and negligent misrepresentation causes of action were actually still claims for breach of promise to marry.

The elements of misrepresentation-style causes of action are: (1) a false representation; (2) where either the person who made the representation knew it was false or made a representation with reckless indifference, (3) with the intent to defraud someone; (4) who relied on it and had the right to rely on it; and (5) was damaged because of the fraud.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that Mr. Bradley had fraudulently misrepresented his martial status by telling Ms. Bradley he was divorced when he was married and “marrying” her.

Bigamy is an extreme case where issues of misrepresentation could become part of a divorce when a couple splits up. However, if you are dealing with family law matters like this one, the success of your case may depend on hiring a qualified and knowledgeable attorney who can navigate the new rules for you. Contact lawyer Anthony Fatemi and his legal team for a legal consultation. They have years of experience in Maryland family law, including matters of divorce, prenuptial agreements, separation agreements, property distribution, custody arrangements, alimony, and domestic violence.

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