Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Alienation of affection
I'm sure there will be some who think that this is a good idea, but thankfully "alienation of affection" is not a tort available to litigants in this country. It is, however, still allowed in North Carolina as this story in The Times today confirms, reporting the case of Cynthia Shackelford who successfully sued her husband's mistress Anne Lundquist for $9 million damages. Mrs Shackelford claimed that Ms Lundquist seduced her husband, and therefore caused the breakdown of her marriage, for which she received the damages. Mr Shackelford, on the other hand, claims that the marriage had already broken down before his relationship with Ms Lundquist.
I'm sorry, but how can you possibly compensate someone for a broken marriage? All that has happened here is that a jilted spouse has legally taken vengeance against the person she sees as responsible for the breakdown of her marriage. If the purpose of this law is to protect marriage by deterring spouses from forming relationships with others, then quite obviously it will not achieve that.
Surely, like criminal conversation, alienation of affection should be consigned to the dustbin of legal history?