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Hylland v. Flaum

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

January 16, 2018

RICHARD HYLLAND, Plaintiff,
v.
RUSSELL FLAUM, Defendant. VIRGINIA FLAUM, Plaintiff,
v.
TRACI HYLLAND, and RICHARD HYLLAND, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER ON PENDING MOTIONS

          ROBERTO A. LANGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         These two consolidated cases arise out of an alleged affair between Russell Flaum and Traci Hylland. Traci's husband Richard Hylland sued Russell for alienation of affections, which is 16-CV-4060. Thereafter, Russell's wife Virginia sued the Hyllands asserting a claim for alienation of affections against Traci and two claims for invasion of privacy against Richard, which is 16-CV-4168. The Hyllands have now moved for judgment on the pleadings, or, alternatively, summary judgment on all of Virginia's claims in 16-CV-4168. 16-CV-4168, Doc. 16. Virginia opposed the Hyllands' motion and has filed a motion under Rule 56(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure asking this Court to deny or postpone ruling on the Hyllands' motion. 16-CV-4168, Doc. 25. For the reasons explained below, this Court grants the Hyllands' motion in part and grants Virginia's motion in part. The parties' motions are otherwise denied.

         I. Facts

         The Hyllands are South Dakota residents but maintain a second home in Indian Wells, California. The Flaums are Illinois residents who also maintain a second home in Indian Wells, California. Russell and Traci first met at a country club in Indian Wells in late 2014. They started playing tennis together and this progressed to other activities, including going out to eat, attending tennis tournaments, and meeting up in Palm Desert or Beverly Hills, California. Apparently at Traci's request, Russell met with Traci and her therapist in early May 2015 in Palm Desert.

         Traci returned to South Dakota on May 17, 2015, but she and Russell continued to communicate through the mail, internet, and telephone. Many of these communications were romantic in nature, with Traci and Russell expressing love for one another and discussing leaving their spouses. In July 2015, after discovering these communications, Richard mailed a package of material concerning Russell's relationship with Traci to Virginia in Illinois. The package, among other things, alleged that Traci and Russell engaged in sexual intercourse in California and contained what appeared to be emails and text messages Russell sent to Traci. In September 2015, Richard sent packages containing this same content to Virginia and Russell's children and the fiance of one of these children.

         In March 2016, Richard sued Russell in South Dakota state court for alienating the affections of Traci. Russell removed the case to this Court and moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. At the hearing on Russell's motion, Richard through counsel acknowledged that he claims that the alienation of affection tort was committed after Traci returned to South Dakota in mid-May of 2015 and that Richard is making no claim that any of the conduct in California supports a cause of action or recovery. California law does not recognize a claim for alienation of affection. In November 2016, this Court denied Russell's motion to dismiss, finding that personal jurisdiction over Russell existed because Russell intentionally directed his conduct at South Dakota, and because the alleged effects of his conduct were suffered in South Dakota. 16-CV-4060, Doc. 21.

         Virginia then filed her suit in this Court, asserting a claim for alienation of affections against Traci and two claims for invasion of privacy against Richard. 16-CV-4168, Doc. 10. According to Virginia, both her alienation of affections claim against Traci and Richard's alienation of affections claim against Russell are based on the same telephone calls, texts, and emails. Virginia's invasion of privacy claims concern the packages Richard mailed presumably from South Dakota to Illinois and the materials contained therein.

         The Hyllands then moved for judgment on the pleadings or, alternatively, summary judgment. 16-CV-4168, Doc. 16. Virginia opposed the motion and also filed a motion under Rule 56(d) asking this Court to either deny or continue the Hyllands' motion for judgment on the pleadings. 16-CV-4168, Doc. 25. Virginia contended that Russell deleted all of the messages Traci sent him, and that Virginia therefore needs discovery to acquire the communications Traci sent to Russell. Thereafter, Virginia filed a motion to compel discovery, asserting that the Hyllands' responses to Virginia's interrogatories and request for production were deficient. 16-CV-4168, Doc. 34. Virginia's motion mainly concerned Traci's communications with Russell, but also sought some information about Richard's packages sent to people in Illinois. Among other things, Virginia asked the Hyllands to produce all of the electronic devices they have used since 2015 so that a forensic expert could search them for communications between Traci and Russell. The Hyllands produced an additional 272 pages of documents, but Virginia remained unsatisfied with the Hyllands' discovery responses. After a hearing on the pending motions, this Court granted in part Virginia's motion to compel, ordering that Traci produce the iPhone she used to communicate with Russell so that a forensic computer firm could attempt to retrieve these communications. 16-CV-4168, Doc. 45.[1]

         II. Standards of Review

         When ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c), courts must "accept as true all facts pleaded by the non-moving party and grant all reasonable inferences from the pleadings in favor of the non-moving party." Haney v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC. 837 F.3d 918, 924 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting United States v. Any & All Radio Station Transmission Equip.. 207 F.3d 458, 462 (8th Cir. 2000)). A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) "should be granted only if the moving party clearly establishes that there are no material issues of fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Porus Media Corp. v. Pall Corp.. 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999).

         Summary judgment is appropriate under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). On summary judgment, the facts and inferences drawn from those facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc.. 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962) (per curium).

         III. Analysis

         The Hyllands argue that Illinois law governs all of Virginia's claims, that her claims for alienation of affections and invasion of privacy by intrusion upon seclusion fail under Illinois law, and that the Illinois statute of limitations bars both of Virginia's claims for invasion of privacy. This Court addresses Virginia's claims in turn.

         A. Alienation of Affections

         The parties disagree over which state's law governs Virginia's claim for alienation of affections. The Hyllands argue that Illinois law controls while Virginia contends that South Dakota law should apply. When faced with a conflict of law issue in a diversity case, a district court should first determine whether the relevant laws actually conflict and then, if a conflict exists, apply the choice of law rules of the forum state. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. v Kamrath, 475 F.3d 920, 924 (8th Cir. 2007). Illinois law conflicts with South Dakota law on the tort of, alienation of affections because while South Dakota allows recovery of punitive damages as well as damages for mental suffering and loss of consortium, Illinois does not.[2] Jones v. Swanson, 341 F.3d 723, 736-37 (8th Cir. 2003) (discussing punitive damages in alienation of affections claim in South Dakota); Kaplan v. Jewett 229 F.Supp.3d 731, 734-36 (N.D. 111. 2017) (noting that under Illinois law, a plaintiff in an alienation of affections case is limited to "actual damages" and cannot recover punitive damages or damages for mental suffering or loss of consortium); Morev v. Keller, 85 N.W.2d 57, 59 (S.D. 1957) (explaining that a plaintiff in an alienation of affections case may recover for loss of consortium and mental anguish); see also Pescatore v. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc., 97 F.3d 1, 14 (2d Cir. 1996) (finding a conflict where one state permitted recovery for loss of society in a wrongful death action while the other state did not). Given this conflict, this Court must apply South Dakota's choice-of-law rules to determine which state's law governs Virginia's alienation of affections claim. Prudential Ins. Ca, 475 F.3d at 924.

         South Dakota follows the "most significant relationship" test set forth in the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws to resolve choice of law questions. Burhenn v. Dennis Supply Co., 685 N.W.2d 778, 784 (S.D. 2004). Three sections of the Restatement are relevant to the most significant relationship test in this case.

         First, § 6 of the Restatement sets forth the guiding principles for the Restatement's choice of law approach:

(1) A court, subject to constitutional restrictions, will follow a statutory directive of its own state on choice of law.
(2) When there is no such directive, the factors relevant to the choice of the applicable rule of law include:
(a) the needs of the interstate and international systems,
(b) the relevant policies of the forum,
(c) the relevant polices of other interested states and the relative interests of those states in the determination ...

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