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No fraud claim arising from abortion

Where plaintiff alleges that a woman pregnant with his child committed fraud by representing she would carry to full term and co-parent with plaintiff and instead obtained an abortion, the claim is dismissed. None of her statements were false or intended to mislead when they were made and the “only suggestions that her statements were contemporaneous misrepresentations are conclusory and speculative.”

However, some of plaintiff’s defamation claims against the woman survive demurrer because her complained-of statements can be proved as either true or false.

The complaint

Plaintiff Shane Cory has sued Shannon Thompson and other party defendant for various claims.

Defendants Christopher Thompson, Shannon Thompson, Catherine Thompson and Sarah Kurysz have filed demurrers to plaintiff’s complaint, which alleges Shannon committed fraud by telling plaintiff that she would carry his child full term and co-parent with him and instead obtained an abortion. Shannon informed plaintiff of this after the fact.

“A demurrer admits the truth of all material facts that are properly pleaded, facts which are impliedly alleged, and the facts which may be fairly and justly inferred from the alleged facts.”

Plaintiff’s complaint also alleges that when plaintiff asked Shannon what she wanted from him as a father, she said she wanting nothing, that plaintiff have nothing to do with her or the baby and that they should separate Plaintiff and Shannon were living together along with two of plaintiff’s children from a prior marriage.

Plaintiff inquired again a few days later and did not get a response. When Shannon told plaintiff she was no longer pregnant, the two arranged a meeting. At the meeting, defendant Chris Thompson arrived at some point. The three had a “verbal altercation” and Chris left. Shannon explained that she got an abortion to avoid a custody battle.

Chris and Shannon applied for protective orders against plaintiff. Shannon cited a “history of spousal abuse.” Shannon’s request was denied. Shannon and Chris then withdrew their requests.

Plaintiff alleges that “Shannon ‘plotted with friends, family, lovers, and priests to defame Shane and justify her late-term abortion. … With her sister, Sarah, as the leader of the family, Shannon and Sarah conspired with others to paint Shane as a violent, cruel, and controlling man.”

Fraud

“The Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to allege the elements required for a fraud claim in Virginia. Even with the allegations in the complaint taken as true, Plaintiff has not pled any facts suggesting Shannon’s representations were false when they were made (as opposed to Shannon’s contemporaneous state of mind). The only suggestions that her statements were contemporaneous misrepresentations are conclusory and speculative, such as the allegation that ‘[t]hese statements were false statements of a present, material fact made intentionally and knowingly.’ …

“Additionally, Plaintiff has not pled any facts suggesting the representations were made with intent to mislead. In fact, Plaintiffs own complaint indicates Shannon represented to Plaintiff that she did not want him involved as a parent, or simply refused to answer his inquiries. The demurrer to this count is sustained.”

Defamation

“The Court finds that Plaintiff has stated a cause of action with regard to the statements made by Shannon that Plaintiff ‘beat his wives’ and ‘beats his children.’ These are provably true or false statements, not opinions. …

“Accordingly, the demurrer is overruled as to the statements that Plaintiff ‘beat his wives’ and ‘beats his children.’ …

“The Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action with regard to the statements that Plaintiff ‘will kill [Shannon] and her son,’ Shannon ‘had to abort’ because Plaintiff would ‘steal her son’ and ‘beat her son,’ ‘Shane will kill [Shannon],” and Plaintiff would ‘kill [Chris’s] daughter.’ These statements are all speculations about future events, not statements of present fact. It would be impossible to prove any of these statements true or false. …

“The demurrer is sustained as to these statements. …

“The Court finds that the remaining statements are opinions that rest entirely on the viewpoints of the speakers. …

“Describing words like ‘violent,’ ‘controlling,’ ‘threatening,’ ‘cruel,’ and ‘physically dangerous’ vary based on the speaker’s perspective. Similarly, the word ‘abuse’ can also vary based on perspective; the speaker could be referring to physical abuse or emotional abuse, and the degree at which one considers conduct to be ‘abuse’ varies from person to person. That Shannon ‘fears’ Shane and feels that he abuses his spouses is pure viewpoint. The demurrer is sustained as to these statements.”

Tortious interference

“Plaintiff sued all defendants named in this letter opinion for tortious interference with a parental relationship. Plaintiff argues that Christopher, Catherine, and Sarah advised Shannon to cut off communication with Plaintiff and terminate her pregnancy, thus eliminating Plaintiffs parental rights. …

“In order for a claim of tortious interference to succeed, there must exist a legal interest with which the defendants interfered. There is no such legal interest in existence here. State and federal law — as it exists today with respect to Virginia — does not establish a parental interest in an unborn fetus for the biological father.”

Emotional distress

“Plaintiff sued Shannon for intentional infliction of emotional distress (‘IIED’), alleging she plotted to harm Plaintiff by misleading him about his future as a father and terminating her pregnancy. …

“Shannon’s ‘conduct’ alleged in the complaint that would serve as the basis for an IIED claim is (1) representing a parental expectation to Plaintiff, and (2) obtaining an abortion.

“The main point of argument between these parties is whether the conduct as alleged rises to the level of ‘outrageous in character’ and ‘beyond all possible bounds of decency.’ Neither of these actions do.

“As discussed under the fraud claim, the Plaintiff has not alleged facts demonstrating Shannon intentionally misrepresented parental expectations to Plaintiff. Additionally, obtaining an abortion — something Shannon had the legal right to do — cannot rise to the level of IIED.”

Other claims

The court also sustains demurrers to claims of malicious prosecution, negligent infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.

Cory v. Thompson, et al., Case No. CL-22-971, Aug. 1, 2022, Spotsylvania County Circuit Court (Glover). John M. Pierce for plaintiff; Michael J. George for defendants. VLW 022-8-050, 13 pp.

VLW 022-8-050

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