North Carolina (WITN/CNN) – A North Carolina man has won $750,000 in a lawsuit against a man who wooed away his wife.
The plaintiff sued the other man under the “alienation of affection” law that exists in North Carolina and five other states.
“It was like someone calling you and telling you that a family member had tragically died,” said the plaintiff, Kevin Howard. “He came to my house and ate dinner with my children and I and her. We shared stories we talked about personal lives.”
“The defendant he did things purposely. He would visit with her while I was at work,” Howard said. “I have scars and I still have a lot of healing to do.”
The man was “found guilty” of intentionally wooing Kevin’s wife away right in his own home.
“I filed this case because I believe it’s very important that people understand that sanctity of marriage is important especially in this day and age when people question everyone’s morals, people question everyone’s liability of a person and the state-backed me up on it.”
If the defendant can’t pay, it turns into debt owed and appears on his credit report.
“Are we backing up the court system for a week or two weeks to have the jury selection, jury trial, and for the plaintiff to spend tens of thousands of dollars to end up getting a piece of paper they’re never going to collect against?” said Paul Jenkins, an independent attorney.
In her 30-year law career, Howard’s lawyer has argued on average about one alienation of affection case every year.
Attorney Kellie Gonzalez thinks this should be the last year.
“I think the law should be repealed, there have been several legislative movements and attempts to have the law removed but those have failed.”
The old law is from the 1800’s, and follows English law dating back to 1745 when wives were considered property.
“It’s antiquated and old in nature,” Jenkins said.
Today, either husband or wife can sue someone they believe damaged their marriage.
In North Carolina, only once was the law was successfully challenged – in the 1984 case of Cannon vs. Miller where the state court of appeals changed the law.
“Critics call this law an obsolete method of inflicting morality on society, one of the reasons for the law is to uphold the sanctity of marriage. But studies have shown that the impacts of this law do not do that.”
After the brief death of the law in 1984, the state supreme court reversed the lower court’s decision and harshly criticized the court for its actions.
And as recently as 2010 backed up the law again.
“They’re not going anywhere they’re protecting these torts,” said Cindy Mills, Howard’s attorney