Master Don Juan
- Nov 2, 2011
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A judge says a Texas man's affair with a North Carolina man's wife should cost him nearly $9 million.
The Herald-Sun of Durham reports that Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson awarded Keith King $8.8 million in compensatory and punitive damages Thursday from Francisco Huizar III.
King had sued Huizar for, among other complaints, criminal conversation and alienation of affection. North Carolina is one of a few states where jilted spouses can sue affair partners.
King claims his marriage was destroyed by Huizar's wrongful and malicious actions.
King used text messages, Facebook posts, phone records and hotel receipts to prove Huizar ended his relationship with his wife.
Attorney Joanne Foil says the affair and an alleged assault by Huizar cost King's company, BMX Stunt Shows, revenue and an employee, as his wife worked for the company.
Huizar's attorney, Cheri Patrick, says the Kings' marriage was damaged before Huizar met the wife at a BMX show. Patrick says King was controlling and manipulative.
Huizar plans to appeal.
Alienation of affections is a common law tort, abolished in many jurisdictions. Where it still exists, an action is brought by a spouse against a third party alleged to be responsible for damaging the marriage, most often resulting in divorce. The defendant in an alienation of affections suit is typically an adulterous spouse's lover, although family members, counselors and therapists or clergy members who have advised a spouse to seek divorce have also been sued for alienation of affections.
The tort of alienation of affections often overlaps with another "heart balm" tort: criminal conversation. Alienation of affections has most in common with the tort of Tortious interference, where a third party can be held liable for interfering with the contractual relationship between two parties.
An action for alienation of affection does not require proof of extramarital sex. An alienation claim is difficult to establish because it comprises several elements and there are several defenses.
To succeed on an alienation claim, the plaintiff has to show the following elements:
- the marriage entailed love between the spouses in some degree;
- the spousal love was alienated;
- the defendant's malicious conduct contributed to or caused the loss of affection.
Thus, the defendant has a defense against an alienation claim where it can be shown that he or she did not know that the object of his or her affections was in fact married. It is not a defense that the guilty spouse consented to the defendant's conduct, but it might be a defense that the defendant was not the active and aggressive seducer.
If the defendant's conduct was somehow inadvertent, the plaintiff would be unable to show intentional or malicious action. But prior marital problems do not establish a defense unless such unhappiness had reached a level of negating love between the spouses.