CHICAGO -- A woman who sued her former fiance for breaking their seven-week engagement has won $178,000 in damages from a jury in what could be a precedent-setting federal case.
Yesterday's decision surprised some observers, in part because the U.S. District Court jury consisted of seven men and one woman.
But jurors took less than three hours to find that Oregon rancher Richard Austin Springs III violated the Illinois Breach of Promise Act last year when he used the mail to abruptly break off marriage plans with Sharon Wildey, 50, of Chicago.
The jury awarded Ms. Wildey $93,000 in damages for pain and bTC suffering, $60,000 for the loss of income from her law practice and $25,000 for psychiatric counseling expenses.
As a result of the breakup, Ms. Wildey testified, she couldn't bring herself to tell friends about the split, fell into a deep depression, struggled to work and even had trouble talking.
"This jury has sent a message we're past gender bias," said Terence Flynn, Ms. Wildey's lawyer, when he was asked after the verdict if he had been concerned by the jury's mostly male makeup.
Bernard Nussbaum, Mr. Springs' lawyer, said he was unaware of any similar federal lawsuits in the country and only a handful of cases had been filed in Illinois in the law's approximately 45 years on the books.