ANNAPOLIS – Rejected earlier this month for pursuing what the Court of Special Appeals called a “breach of promise to marry” suit, lawyers for a Montgomery County woman spurned by her fiance have asked Maryland’s highest court to review their case.
In papers filed Monday with the Court of Appeals, attorneys for Lonnie Miller said their original suit was “manipulated and converted [from] a simple breach of contract into a breach of contract to marry.” State law bans breach of contract to marry lawsuits.
Miller’s lawyer, Hubert M. Schlosberg, said her suit for support stemmed from an entirely separate and different agreement. The case was dismissed by the Montgomery County Circuit Court, meaning that it never came to trial.
“All she has asked for is the right to have a jury hear her case,” Schlosberg said. “If the jury says no, so be it.”
Miller, who has suffered from breast cancer, claimed that her boyfriend, Warren Ratner, forced her out of the house they shared after the cancer spread to her hip. She said she moved into the house understanding that Ratner, a vice president of the company that owns the Hair Cuttery chain, would support her.
“Warren always told me he’d always take care of me whether we’re together or not,” Miller said in a telephone interview.
But Ratner’s attorney, Albert D. Brault, said: “Is it a breach of promise to marry? Two courts have said it is.”
Both the Circuit Court and the Court of Special Appeals based their decisions on a 1945 Maryland law prohibiting breach of promise to marry suits.
Tony Waters, professor of contract law at the University of Maryland, calls the law “entirely sexist.”
“It is clear that the 1945 statute was a product of the white male elite that was in charge of everything at the time,” Waters said. “Law is a very specialized form of history and when you work it back to a time when extra-marital affairs were an affront to society,” the law makes sense.
“There have been changes in society,” he continued, “which no one can argue, in the half century since.”
Melinda Towne, president of the Maryland chapter of the National Organization for Women, echoed Schlosberg’s sentiment:
“No matter whether it’s a good case, she deserves the opportunity to publicly express her concerns. By dismissing the case the court is denying her that right,” Towne said. The legal arm of NOW is considering filing a “friend of the court” brief in the Court of Appeals. -30-