PIERRE | A Rapid City woman can sue her ex-husband for allegedly forcing her to work as a prostitute before and during their marriage, and for allegedly abusing her emotionally, physically and sexually, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled in a decision released Thursday.
The justices in the process also overruled a 1989 decision in Pickering v. Pickering. There a previous set of justices barred former spouses from suing each other for intentionally inflicting emotional distress, if the conduct was the basis for the divorce.
In the unanimous decision this week, the justices directed the matter be sent back to Seventh Circuit Judge Robert Gusinsky for further proceedings.
The justices noted the judge acted under the Pickering precedent. The judge dismissed the lawsuit after a hearing Jan. 12, 2016, because the woman failed to state a claim.
In the case, Sally Richardson claimed Michael Richardson subjected her to intentional infliction of emotional distress, starting in mid-2013, after they had met that May at a Walmart store.
She said she had stopped serving as an escort by that time but he forced her to start again. They married in May 2014 but separated that September and divorced in April 2015.
He wanted her to “engage in infantilizing conduct” and “forced Sally to perform unsafe and demeaning sexual acts against her will,” Justice Janine Kern wrote in the decision.
The high court heard arguments Oct. 3, 2016. Wednesday's decision came more than 14 months afterward.
“Numerous states permit IIED suits between current or former spouses for conduct that occurred during marriage,” Kern wrote. “We overturn Pickering and allow those otherwise unable to seek redress for the kinds of abuse Sally suffered to pursue a claim for IIED.”