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Breach of Promise Suit

3/10/2009:

Spring is the season of love, and that can mean all kinds of trouble. This was true for Mrs. Sybil Kleity from North Dakota, who found love in a most unexpected place, public transportation.

Mrs. Kleity was a beautician who moved from Minot to Fargo in 1936 after leaving her husband, Raymond Kleity of Minot. En route from Grand Forks to Fargo she met Mr. Frank G. Lansing of Minneapolis, an employee of the Overland Transportation Company.

However, this love was as fleeting as the paper her one-way ticket was printed on. Even though Mr. Lansing proposed to Mrs. Kleity in July of 1938 with a sparkling ring in the presence of 15 witnesses, Mrs. Kleity found herself duped. The man was not only in a relationship with another woman in Minneapolis, he was already married and had four children.

This caused Mrs. Kleity much anger, $25,000 worth according to the Minot Daily News of 1939. Mrs. Kleity took Mr. Lansing to court for misconduct of the heart, formally called a "Breach of Promise Suit." Mrs. Kleity cited "great physical and mental anguish...and embarrassment."

These "Breach of Promise Suits" have a deep history. Originating in medieval times, they occurred well into the early 20th century. In many cases, the man's promise of engagement was considered a legally binding contract and when "breached" could result in litigation and damages. This contract of engagement to be married created liability for men, but not often for women, reflecting the differing social expectations of men and women throughout most of history. In the early part of the 20th century in the United States, many "yellow journalists" covered these cases with tabloid-like enthusiasm, as many of the lawsuits involved attractive, young society women and wealthy older men.

On this day in 1939, Mrs. Kleity won in her suit when District Judge M. J. Englert ordered a default judgment of $2,000. The amount is a little shy of the compensation sought, but there was no doubt satisfaction in her justification of heartbreak.

Certainly the unusually steep cost for breaking this particular heart is a little upsetting and comical. However, it has been said, "Caring and trust is the cost of the ticket on the bus of love." ~Anonymous quote

Minot Daily News, February 10, March 10, 1939