North Carolina is one of the few states still recognizing the claim of alienation of affections. This claim is becoming fairly popular as of late due to the recent $9 million jury award in Guilford County. National news reports have also been discussing the claim in relation to the John Edwards saga in nearby Chatham County. With as popular as this claim has become in recent months, Tiger Woods and his stash of secret “putters” are lucky none to date have been identified as a resident of the Tar Heel state.
The claim itself involves a wrongful act which deprives a person of the affection, love, society, companionship, and comfort of their spouse. By allowing the spouse to sue the third-party adulterer, this claim protects and recognizes the sanctity of marriage. The claim itself requires proof of three elements: 1) there was a marriage with love and affection existing between the husband and wife; (2) that love and affection was alienated; and (3) the malicious acts of the defendant produced the loss of that love and affection.
If proven, a person may be awarded compensatory and punitive damages. In the Guilford County case, the jury awarded her $5 million in compensatory damages and $4 million in punitive damages. The $9 million dollar jury verdict was awarded in Guilford County also included claims for alienation of affections, criminal conversation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
With this recent decision mistresses and adulterers better beware that there actions might have a hefty impact on their bank accounts.