Appeals court affirms appeal in McGee's 2013 lawsuit

By BUSTER WOLFE,

The Mississippi Court of Appeals has affirmed motions in a Forrest County Circuit Court case where a man sued Sheriff Billy McGee for alienation of affection when the man and his former wife divorced.

David Michael Lyon Jr. claimed McGee interfered with his marriage, causing his wife, Robin, to abandon the marriage and have an adulterous relationship with McGee, according to court records.

Lyon discovered the relationship in October 2013 – after the Lyons had separated and Robin had filed for divorce, but before the divorce was final. Discovery ensued, and McGee admitted to having an affair with Robin commencing on Oct. 4, 2013.

McGee filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. McGee argued dismissal was proper because Lyon ultimately agreed to an irreconcilable-differences divorce, which was at odds with an alienation-of-affection claim.

According to McGee, he could not have contributed to the end of the marriage under this form of divorce, as reconciliation of the Lyons was impossible. Further, McGee argued the defenses of issue preclusion and/or judicial or collateral estoppel barred relitigation of the grounds for divorce that an alienation-of- affection claim would create.

Alternatively, McGee’s motion said summary judgment was proper because there was no causal connection between McGee’s conduct and any alleged loss by Lyon, because McGee’s conduct with Robin occurred long after the Lyons’ separation in July 2013.

On Oct. 3, 2014, Lyon sued McGee for alienation of affection in the Forrest County Circuit Court, seeking $1 million in actual damages. Lyon contended that McGee interfered with the Lyons’ relationship and “destroyed the marriage and deprived [Lyon] of the affections of his former wife.”

On Jan. 20, 2016, McGee filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. In February 2016, a hearing was held on McGee’s motion for summary judgment, which the circuit judge took under advisement.

On March 1, 2016, the circuit judge entered an order granting summary judgment to McGee, focusing on the timing/causation argument. The circuit judge found Lyon did not establish that his wife and McGee had a relationship before July 12, 2013, the date the Lyons separated.

The circuit court ultimately denied Lyon’s motion to reconsider. Lyon appealed both rulings on the motion for summary judgment and motion to reconsider. McGee cross-appealed, arguing that if summary judgment is found improper, it should be affirmed based upon judicial estoppel – preventing someone from bringing a particular claim, particularly if a promise unsupported by consideration.

Both the direct appeal by Lyon and the cross-appeal by McGee were affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Judge Donna M. Barnes wrote the opinion on the case.

Concurring with the judgment on both appeals were Chief Judge L. Joseph Lee, Presiding Judge Tyree L. Irving, and Judges Virginia Carlton, Jim Greenlee, Latrice A. Westbrooks and Sean J. Tindell. Judge Jack L. Wilson concurred in part and in the result without separate written opinion. Presiding Judge Kenny Griffis and Judge Eugene Love Fair Jr. did not participate.

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