“Mistress Ordered to Pay $5.8 Million” to Wronged Wife

WNCT-TV reports:

The woman who broke up a North Carolina couple’s marriage has to pay $5.8 million [to the ex-wife]….

“[The defendant, the husband’s former high school classmate,] came down and helped my client paint her nursery and in the process she helped herself to my client’s husband,” Cynthia Mills of Mills & Bryant.

She represented Lynn Arcara in the alienation of affection case she took to trial against Susan Pecoraro, a woman she once called her friend….

The trial was apparently before a judge, without a jury (presumably because the parties waived their right to trial by jury); the damages award was “the second largest alienation of affection judgment to ever be made in the state.” The story reports that, “The mistress in this case lives in Maryland so chances are she may never pay a dime in this judgment”; that surprises me, since I would assume the judgment is enforceable across state boundaries (though perhaps it might not be worth trying to enforce, if the mistress has no money). [UPDATE: I’m relying on the principle that there is “no roving ‘public policy exception’ to the full faith and credit due judgments.”]

For more on the alienation of affections tort, see this post. Also, as I discuss here, in fiscal years 2000-2007, there were an average of 230 alienation of affections filings in North Carolina per year — a bit over 0.5% of the number of all divorces. The tort is also recognized in Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah, but it seems to be often litigated only in North Carolina and (to an apparently smaller extent) in Mississippi; I’ve seen very few reports of alienation of affections cases from the other jurisdictions. For the leading modern court opinion on whether the tort should be retained, see Fitch v. Valentine (Miss. 2007).

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