“A Charlotte man blames the breakup of his marriage not only on the other guy, but also on the online infidelity service that he says made it happen. … North Carolina remains one of only a half-dozen states that still awards punitive damages when a marriage fails and someone other than the husband and wife is to blame. The so-called alienation of affection/criminal conversation laws have survived numerous efforts by judges, lawyers and some legislators to repeal them, and in recent years they have led to million-dollar judgments for wronged spouses.” [Charlotte Observer]
In the New York legislature, bowling alleys are hoping to win a law protecting them from slip-fall liability arising after their customers wear store-rented shoes outside the building and either slip there or track snow or other slippery matter back inside. Weather hazards have been tripping up more customers of the ordinarily indoor sport, it seems, since the state enforced a complete indoor smoking ban. The trial lawyer association is dead set against the bill; its president claims that the bill “undercuts the constitutional right to a trial by a jury” — presumably on the theory that it somehow undercuts trial by jury for a legislature to roll back any instance of liability for anyone anywhere. That’s sheer nonsense, of course — otherwise, it’d have been unconstitutional for legislatures around most of the country to have abolished the old heartbalm torts of breach of promise to marry and alienation of affection. [Albany Times-Union via Future of Capitalism] More: Lowering the Bar.
Kyle Graham asks why that variety of “heartbalm” action remains a vital and frequently used tort in the Tarheel State, but not elsewhere, though it remains on the books in ten or so other states. “The popularity of the tort in North Carolina suggests, at least to me, the importance of inertia and claim consciousness in tort law.”
- Facing four harassment claims, embattled Philadelphia housing chief files his own suit for $600K+ [Inquirer]
- “Ohio State Abuses Trademark Law to Suppress a Fan Magazine and Website” [Paul Alan Levy, CL&P]
- “Judge Dismisses Baltimore Blight Suit Against Wells Fargo, Will Allow Refiling” [ABA Journal]
- Trial lawyer taking behind-the-scenes hand in Louisiana politics [OpenSecrets via Tapscott]
- “Are hedge funds abusing bankruptcy?” [Felix Salmon and WSJ]
- North Carolina alienation-of-affection law strikes again: “’Mistress Ordered to Pay $5.8 Million’ to Wronged Wife” [Volokh, Althouse]
- “Lawyers take a haircut on a contingency fee in Colorado” [Legal Ethics Forum]
- ADA lawsuits close another beloved eatery [Stockton, Calif.; six years ago on Overlawyered]
The defendant wasn’t at trial and didn’t have a lawyer, and plans to appeal; the judgment might as well be for $73 gazillion, as the ex-husband is already in contempt of court for failure to pay spousal support. (Greensboro News-Record March 18 and March 17 via Volokh). We’ve been covering the issue for years, as a click on the tags will reveal.
Per ABC News, Andrew Young says that Elizabeth Edwards has threatened him with a lawsuit under North Carolina’s law permitting lawsuits against third parties — not limited to paramours — who helped break up a marriage. We’ve been covering the workings of this law for years at Overlawyered, and Ted may have been the first to spot its possible application to the Sen. Edwards squalor-ama. Much more at Death by 1000 Papercuts. (Rewritten somewhat for clarity 1 p.m. Eastern; & welcome Mickey Kaus readers)
- Wronged wife loses suit under California “Drug Dealer Liability Act” (DDLA) against mistress who supplied crack cocaine to husband [OnPoint News]
- “D.C. Circuit to Former Judge in Pants Lawsuit: Follow the Rules” [NLJ, more, earlier]
- “Law firm demands retailer destroy all copies of Olivia Munn comic, retailer refuses” [BoingBoing, HeavyInk, earlier on TJIC]
- Can’t find jury for tobacco trial: “Lawyers excused a woman who said people have no right to sue over diseases that are disclosed on the warning label of a package.” [Russell Jackson, Chamber-backed W.V. Record]
- Despite widespread misconception to the contrary, editing comments generally does not open blogger to liability over what remains [Citizen Media Law]
- To heck with HIPAA, introduce your patients to each other if you think they’ll get along [Musings of a Dinosaur]
- Devoted daughter vs. RSPCA: epic will contest in Britain over family farm bequest [Times Online]
- Woman found guilty after planting dead rat in meal at upscale restaurant [Appleton Post-Crescent via Lowering the Bar and Obscure Store]
- NYC criminal defense lawyer and TV commentator Robert Simels convicted of witness tampering in closely watched case [NY Daily News and more, NYLJ, Greenfield, Simon/Legal Ethics Forum]
- Title IX suit says harassment by other students pushed school girl into anorexia, school should pay [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
- Federal judge upholds some Louisiana restrictions on lawyer advertising, but says rules on Internet communication unconstitutionally restrict speech [WAFB, Ron Coleman]
- “Woman Claims Display Was So Distracting, She Fell Over It” [Lowering the Bar; Santa Clara County, Calif. Dollar Tree]
- Associated Press now putting out softer line on blogger use of its copy, but is it a trap? [Felix Salmon, earlier]
- Update: Google ordered to identify person who set up nasty “skank” blog to attack NYC model [Fashionista, earlier here and here]
- Some speak as if lawsuits over “alienation of affections” a thing of the past, alas not so [Eugene Volokh, more, yet more; earlier]
- Connecticut: “State Holds Hearing On Whether Group Can Hand Out Food To The Poor” [Hartford Courant; “Food Not Bombs” group at Wesleyan]
Note: post was mistakenly titled as “August 22 roundup” at first, now fixed; thanks to reader Jonathan B. for catching.
More from commenter “spudbeach”: “I am _sooo_ glad that I live in Wisconsin. Not only are alienation of affection lawsuits not allowed, it is actually illegal to even threaten one! Wisc. Stats. 768.03 makes it illegal to threaten, and 768.07 sets the penalty to $10,000 fine and/or 9 months in jail.” And XRLQ observes that these laws (still on the books in Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah, as well as North Carolina) could impose liability not just on paramours, but on plain old friends or acquaintances who’d encouraged an unhappy spouse to leave a marriage. Yet more: Robinette, 2007 (via); The Briefcase.