05/29/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT
Hell hath no fury like a prom date snubbed. Just ask 15-year-old Tomontra Mangrum of Royal Palm Beach, Fla. When her basketball star in shining tuxedo failed to show on the appointed evening, Mangrum did what any self-respecting girl dreams about doing when she gets stood up: She—and her mother, Valerie—sued for damages.
To keep things in perspective, it should be noted that Tomontra and her mom are suing for only $49.53 in small claims court, and the suit is a matter of principle. "I was very disappointed because not only was it my first prom, it was my first date," reports the high school freshman. "When he stood me up, I felt terrible. We're going to court not for the money but to teach him a lesson. He was heartless, inconsiderate and selfish."
The object of Tomontra's disaffection is one Marlon Shadd, 17, a Palm Beach Lakes High basketball star who has signed a letter of intent to play for Kansas State next fall. In his defense, Shadd says that a fractured ankle kept him out of action and that he had told Tomontra about his injury five days before their date. "I can't believe this," said Shadd at the pretrial hearing. "She said she didn't believe me when I told her I fractured my ankle." On the night in question he says he was meeting with recruiters at the University of South Florida, on crutches.
Tomontra tells a different tale. She claims she called Shadd as soon as she heard he was hurt, and "he told me he had ordered his tux, bought the tickets, rented a car, and we would have dinner before the prom. He said if for any reason his plans changed he would be sure to call."
Lord & Taylor took back Tomontra's $280 ruffled chiffon gown and matching $19 purse; it's the dyed satin shoes, hair-styling session and a sprig of baby's breath for her hair that add up to the contested $49.53. At the pretrial hearing for the scheduled July 17 trial, County Judge Howard Berman carefully framed the legal questions raised: "The issue is, was there a valid contract? We had an offer and we had an acceptance. Could she have gotten another date for the prom?"
Regardless of which way the scales of justice finally tip, Tomontra's mother has learned enough about law and heartache to perhaps change pre-date ceremony forever. Says she: "The next guy who offers to take her to the prom will have to sign a note of his intent."