A Georgia appeals court has upheld an earlier ruling ordering a state resident to pay $50,000 to his one-time fiancé for breaking his promise to marry her.
Courthouse News Service (CNS) reports Melissa Cooper sued Christopher Ned Kelley for fraud and breach of promise after their rocky, 10-year relationship ended in 2011.
The couple reportedly had lived together since 2000 and had a child. In 2004, Kelley reportedly gave Cooper a ring, although he later contended during legal proceedings he never conjoined the gesture with the phrase, “Will you marry me?”
“I never initiated the concept of marriage with her, outside of giving her that ring,” Kelley reportedly said during the protracted legal wrangling. “I never said the words ‘will you marry me’ to her.”
Their relationship ended after Cooper discovered that Kelley had twice cheated on her with another woman, according to CNS.
“I never initiated the concept of marriage with her, outside of giving her that ring.”
– Christopher Ned Kelley
A trial court reportedly awarded Cooper damages and attorneys’ fees worth $50,000, and now the Georgia Court of Appeals is affirming that order by ruling, “Cooper testified that she was devastated by Kelley’s fraud and breach of promise to marry and that she quit her job to raise the couple’s children in reliance on the promise.”
Part of Kelley’s trouble, according to CNS, may have been the somewhat awkward legal tact he took to defend himself against the suit.
He reportedly argued his relationship with Cooper was “meretricious” in nature and thus unenforceable by law, per an earlier precedent set by the Georgia Supreme Court regarding meretricious relationships. The word, “meretricious,” is a loaded one in legal circles, and usually refers to any contract or promise, verbal or otherwise, between a prostitute and a john.
But, as the appeals court reportedly pointed out, the meretricious defense doesn’t hold water when, “the object of the contract is not illegal or against public policy.” In this case, the object of the contract was obviously marriage.
“The object of such a promise is not illegal or against public policy,” Judge Elizabeth Branch wrote for the majority in the appeals court’s decision, according to CNS. “In Georgia, the legislature has specifically announced that ‘marriage is encouraged by the law.'”
As for Cooper, her attorney told ABCNews.com she plans to use the money, or at least part of it, to buy a home for herself and her two children – the child she had with Kelley along one additional child from a prior relationship.