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Batavia woman can’t be sued for fake online relationship

Published: Saturday, May 26, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, May 26, 2012 7:39 a.m. CDT

An Illinois Supreme Court ruling this week will not allow a California woman to sue a Batavia woman for deceiving her in an 18-month online relationship.

The court found that plaintiff Paula Bonhomme of Los Angeles cannot sue Janna St. James-Priggie, 59, who lives on the 800 block of Washington Street in Batavia. Bonhomme filed suit first in Cook County, then in Kane County in 2008, seeking $100,000 in punitive damages.

Bonhomme’s attorney Daliah Saper said in an email, “The case is, unfortunately, closed.”

Bonhomme, 51, alleged she fell in love with Jesse Jubilee James online in 2005. She alleged she was befriended by 21 of his “friends and family,” also online, and was comforted by one of them when James “died” of liver cancer in 2006.

James and the online entourage were creations of Priggie, according to Bonhomme’s complaint, an elaborate online fraud that damaged Bonhomme emotionally and financially.

The Illinois Second District Appellate Court ruled in March 2011 that Bonhomme’s claim of fraudulent misrepresentation could proceed in her third amended complaint. Both sides took it to the state’s high court making different legal arguments.

The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the appellate decision.

The court found that because their relationship was not business but “purely personal in nature,” the state could not regulate it or have a public policy interest.

Priggie did not respond to an email request for comment. Her attorney, Phyllis Perko, did not respond to a voicemail request for comment.

What is still pending in Kane County is a suit by Illinois Farmers Insurance against both Priggie and Bonhomme.

According to the 2009 filing, Priggie gave the suit to Farmers, her homeowners insurance, which denied coverage. An attorney for Farmers did not return a voicemail message seeking comment. But Saper said, via email, that because the original suit is over, the case still pending is expected to end as well.

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