Scorned spouses who find that their spouses have engaged in intimate acts with other people may soon be able to bring those third parties into the court of law after a North Carolina husband secured a green light for his case against his wife’s paramour to proceed.
A North Carolina appeals court ruled in favor of Mark Malecek’s 2015 lawsuit against Dr. Derek Williams, which he filed in 2015 after learning that the doctor had carried on an affair with Malecek’s wife, Amber, Fox News reported.
Accusing Williams of “alienation of affection and criminal conversation,” Malecek demanded at least $100,000 damages. The jilted husband claimed that Williams, a pediatric cardiologist at Wake Forest Baptist Health, pursued Amber Malecek, who works as a nurse at the same facility, despite knowing that she was already married.
In the lawsuit, Malecek insists that his marriage was sunshine and roses until his wife began working with Dr. Williams. He claims that their affair began in December 2014 and lasted until Malecek found a slew of explicit emails and text messages that Williams and Amber Malecek had exchanged.
While North Carolina is one of six states that allows lawsuits over alienation of affection, Williams’ legal team argued that the state’s law was unconstitutional under a 2003 Supreme Court decision overturning a Texas law against homosexuality. On Tuesday, a three-judge panel overturned a previous verdict in favor of Williams, allowing Malecek’s suit to go forward.
“People who are suffering a divorce as a result of an affair, there’s a lot of economic damage,” Raleigh divorce attorney Lisa Angel told the Associated Press. “It’s not hard to make that case, as the court is making it clear here, that there’s injury to a person when this happens.”
Williams’ team suggested in a statement that alienation of affection lawsuits are often “used by vindictive ex-spouses as a type of blackmail” and noted that “most of these suits are brought after the marriage is over.”
In 2011, a Wake County judge awarded $30 million to the former wife of a Raleigh business owner who sued her ex-husband’s current spouse, setting the state record for the largest alienation award.