Motion to Strike Alimony and Child Support Decree in Maryland

In Vance v. Vance, 286 Md. 490, 496-497, 408 A.2d 728 (1979), the plaintiff sought and obtained a decree awarding her alimony and child support after her husband of eighteen years left her and their two children for another woman. 286 Md. at 492. The defendant filed a motion to strike the decree and annul the marriage on the ground that it was void because the defendant was not divorced from his first wife when he purported to marry the plaintiff. Although the defendant had believed his divorce was final at the time he married the plaintiff, he learned nearly a month after that purported marriage that his divorce decree had become final several weeks after the purported marriage. Id. The defendant did not disclose this fact to the plaintiff prior to filing his motion to strike. Thereafter, the plaintiff sued the defendant for, inter alia, damages for emotional distress that she claimed to have suffered as a result of the defendant's negligent misrepresentation over their eighteen years of assumed marriage, concerning his marital status at the time of their purported marriage. Id. at 492-493. The Vance Court noted several means by which the requisite "physical injury" resulting from emotional distress may be proved. The first few categories, according to the Court, "pertain to manifestations of a physical injury through evidence of an external condition or by symptoms of a pathological or physiological state." Id. at 500. The Court stated that a physical injury can be proven "by evidence indicative of a mental state . . . . In the context of the Bowman rule, therefore, the term 'physical' is not used in its ordinary dictionary sense . . . ,but is instead used to represent that the injury for which recovery is sought is capable of objective determination." Id. The Vance Court, citing evidence that the plaintiff (1)went into a state of shock, (2) engaged in spontaneous crying , (3) was unable to function normally, (4) experienced symptoms of an ulcer, and (5) suffered an emotional collapse and depression, concluded that the evidence supported a jury finding that the plaintiff had satisfied the "physical injury" requirement in Bowman. Id. at 501.