Suing Your Spouse

Steve Harvey’s ex-wife Mary Vaughn is suing him for $60 million, claiming that she suffered “prolonged torture with the infliction of severe mental pain and suffering.” Can you sue your spouse in a divorce for battery, transmission of STDs, or emotional distress?

The Harvey Divorce

The Harvey marriage lasted from 1996 until their public divorce in 2005, which was two years prior to Harvey’s third marriage to current wife, Marjorie Bridges. The 60-year-old “Family Feud” host was previously married to Marcia Harvey for 14 years before he wed Vaughn.

As reported by Fox News, court documents claimed that Vaughn “attempted suicide by self-medicating [in] an effort to stop the pain” and alleged that Harvey and his attorney reportedly caused “severe emotional distress” over the years.

ET added that Vaughn is also suing for alleged child endangerment, torture, kidnapping, breach of contract, conspiracy against rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress and even “soul murdering” (which we’ll get to later).

Interspousal Immunity

I’ve written about various issues relating to divorce before. Things like saving taxes, how not to treat your spouse, and what to wear to court. The subject of suing your spouse for emotional distress often comes up in divorces.

Florida used to have a long-standing policy about suing your spouse called the interspousal immunity doctrine. Under the interspousal immunity doctrine, one spouse could not sue the other spouse for tortious conduct committed during the marriage.

Interspousal tort immunity was thought to protect families from the adverse effects to a family relationship as a result of bitter lawsuits, and the drain on family resources.

However, the doctrine of interspousal immunity was abrogated in Florida. So, the ability of a person to sue another person for the intentional tort of battery, for instance, is not affected by marriage between the persons.

The justifications for having an interspousal tort immunity were found to be non-existent in this day and age. So, for example, in some divorce cases it is common for a person to be held liable for infecting another with a sexually transmissible disease.

What About Soul Murder?

Steve Harvey is being sued for, among other things, “soul murder.” This is defined as a “combination of torture, deprivation, and brainwashing.” While the interspousal immunity doctrine is not applicable in Florida, there is a reasonable chance the “soul murder” claim would be thrown out here too.

“Mr. Harvey vehemently denies any allegations set forth in the lawsuit,” read the statement sent to ET.

“The complaint is merit-less, frivolous and the allegations are completely false. We will vigorously defend/counterclaim against the complaint.”

The Fox News article is here.