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Alkhairy v. Ahmad

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Middlesex

January 22, 2016

Ashraf Alkhairy
v.
Ridwan Ahmad Opinion No. 132707

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS COMPLAINT

Robert B. Gordon, Justice

This case arises out of a failed betrothal between the plaintiff's daughter and the defendant. By reason of an agreed marriage that the defendant called off prior to its ceremonial consummation, the plaintiff has brought an action to recover money damages that the would-be bride's father advanced to the defendant and/or to third parties for the defendant's benefit. The defendant has moved to dismiss the action, arguing principally that the damage claims asserted in the Complaint are barred by Mass. G.L.c. 207, § 47A.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

In the time frame between 2011 and 2012, the families of Ashraf Alkhairy (" Alkhairy" or the " plaintiff") and Ridwan Ahmad (" Ahmad" or the " defendant") became acquainted. On August 12, 2012, Ahmad delivered an engagement ring to Alkhairy's daughter, expressing an intent to marry her. Between June 27 and 28, 2013, and what appears to be in accordance with a Saudi Arabian custom, the families of Alkhairy and Ahmad met at length to negotiate and agree upon the terms of marriage. At that time, the families fixed a wedding date of December 24, 2014.

On October 22, 2014, Ahmad " confirmed" his engagement to Alkhairy's daughter, committing to be bound by the terms of the marriage agreement that had been reached that summer. On or about November 8, 2014, however, Ahmad and his family " attempted to repudiate the marriage agreement" on " the supposed basis that the terms of the marriage agreement were neither disclosed nor negotiated." There followed a meeting between the parties on November 10, 2014, at which meeting Ahmad and his family appeared to reconsider their earlier renunciation of the agreed marriage. But on November 13, 2014, Ahmad cancelled the wedding for good via email. As a result, the planned wedding did not take place on the " contemplated ceremonial date." [2]

The Complaint alleges no deliberate fraud on the part of the defendant in calling off the wedding. The Complaint likewise makes no claim that the goods and services financed by the plaintiff were provided on the expressly agreed condition that a marriage between Ahmad and Alkhairy's daughter in fact take place. By this legal action, however, Alkhairy nonetheless seeks damages recovery on account of various expenditures he made for the defendant's benefit--costs he claims to have incurred and benefits he claims to have conferred upon Ahmad in the expectation of a wedding and marriage that never came to be.

In Counts I through III of the Complaint, therefore, the plaintiff asserts breach of contract claims, and thereby seeks the repayment of monies he expended for the benefit of Ahmad. Count I thus alleges that Alkhairy spent $23, 359 for Ahmad's medical school tutoring, travel and expenses associated with Ahmad's clerkship in neurology. In Count II, Alkhairy alleges that he paid the rental costs ($5, 386.65) for a Cambridge apartment that Ahmad occupied for two months. And in Count III, Alkhairy alleges that he paid the rent ($9, 217.74) for an apartment in Boston that Ahmad occupied for eight months.

In Counts IV through IX of the Complaint, the plaintiff asserts claims for unjust enrichment, maintaining that he made various expenditures for the benefit of Ahmad in anticipation of his marriage to Alkhairy's daughter. Alkhairy thus seeks in Count IV the repayment of $9, 217.74 he advanced to Ahmad's Boston lessor as rental payments. In Count V, Alkhairy alleges that he paid substantial fees ($82, 666.65) for Ahmad to become a Saudi citizen. In Count VI, Alkhairy claims that he paid $3, 626.67 for Ahmad's pre-wedding travel and administrative expenses. In Count VII, Alkhairy maintains that he incurred various wedding-related expenses to third parties ($10, 216.60 in total) that included a deposit on the wedding hall and other sundry accommodations. In Count VIII, Alkhairy alleges that he provided Ahmad with $75, 000 worth of services related to the support and promotion of his medical career in the United States. And in Count IX, Alkhairy avers that he funded certain travel as well as the costs of customized wedding attire for Ahmad, in the amount of $16, 322.72.

Finally, in Count X of the Complaint, the plaintiff asserts a claim for restitution, alleging without particularized description that Alkhairy furnished property to Ahmad valued at $225, 796.05. This demand equals the total of all amounts sought in Counts I through IX, making clear that plaintiff is simply advancing an alternate theory of recovery for the same financial losses (rather than asserting an entirely separate claim).

DISCUSSION

The Court concludes that the claims pleaded in the Complaint cannot be reconciled with the General Court's statutory elimination of the so-called " heart balm" cause of action, and must therefore be dismissed. In 1938, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted a statute that provided, in its entirety, as follows:

Breach of contract to marry shall not constitute an injury or wrong recognized by law, and no action, suit or proceeding shall be maintained therefor.

Mass. G.L.c. 207, § 47A. Since the adoption of this law, courts in Massachusetts have had occasion to construe its reach only twice in reported decisions.

In Thibault v. Lalumiere, the Supreme Judicial Court upheld the dismissal of civil claims brought on behalf of a woman who alleged that the defendant had fraudulently promised to marry her, thereby inducing her to " submit to [his] embraces and caresses, " forgo other marriage opportunities, lose employment, and suffer all manner of humiliation and heartache. Thibault, 318 Mass. 72, 60 N.E.2d 349, 350 (1945). In affirming the trial court's dismissal of the Complaint, the SJC observed that, " [h]owever the plaintiff's contentions are viewed, they all stem from the alleged contract to marry which she alleged was made between the defendant and herself. All the damages claimed by her were caused by his breach of that contract." Id. at 351 (citations omitted). Relying upon G.L.c. 207, § 47A, the Court reasoned that this statute " changed the public policy of [the] Commonwealth." Id. For it " not only abolished the right of action for breach of promise [to marry, ] but it went farther and abolished any right of action, whatever its form, that was based upon such a breach." Id. The Thibault Court thereupon ...


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