Friday, October 12, 2012
NJ court: Woman can't sue Nets CEO after abortion
NEWARK, N.J. -- A New Jersey appeals court ruled Friday that the former girlfriend of Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark cannot sue him for allegedly failing to keep promises he made on the condition that she have an abortion.
The court ruled that while Reyna Purcell's decision may have been influenced by Yormark, the final decision to end the pregnancy was hers.
"Under the law and public policy, there is no cause of action for terminating one's pregnancy and then regretting the decision due to subsequent events," the two-judge panel wrote.
Reyna Purcell, now 35, got pregnant shortly after she started dating Yormark, according to court filings. Purcell claimed she wanted to keep the baby, but Yormark threatened to break up with her if she did not end the pregnancy.
Purcell claimed Yormark promised to stay in the relationship and take her on vacation if she had an abortion, according to the ruling.
Purcell had an abortion in February 2011, according to the ruling, and Yormark ended the relationship soon after.
Purcell sued, saying Yormark fraudulently and maliciously coerced her into terminating the pregnancy and inflicted significant emotional distress.
A judge dismissed the case, ruling that because Yormark's promise was verbal and no lawyers were consulted, it was not enforceable. Promises of support outside of marriage must be in writing in order to be legally binding, the judge said.
Purcell's lawyers appealed, claiming the court misunderstood her claims. The lawsuit wasn't about the promise, the ruling said, but Yormark interfering with Purcell's "recognized reproductive liberties" by "maliciously and fraudulently commandeering and corrupting (her) protected right to wield control over her body and make her own reproductive choices."
The justices upheld the lower court's determination that "all of plaintiff's claims were based on defendant's promise to stay in her life, which is unenforceable," the justices wrote.
In a telephone interview, Purcell's lawyer, Barry D. Epstein, said his client and Yormark were named in lower court filings, but the appeals court used only their initials in the ruling.
Epstein said he is disappointed by the ruling.
"Notwithstanding the court's opinion, it was our collective view that we brought appropriate claims that should have been recognized," Epstein said. "They were admittedly novel, but we thought they were founded on proper legal principles."
Yormark's attorney, Jack Simons, praised the appellate panel for "in a very clear and succinct opinion, affirming the trial court decision referring to the plaintiff's claims as disingenuous and baseless."