Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Out Of All the Tiger Woods Blather, Here is an Interesting Idea

I avoided discussing or mentioning anything about Tiger Woods' marital problems because I just did not see any thing interesting for me or my readers. That is until I read Lawinfo Weblog's Tiger Woods Mistress Reveals Voluntary 3-Year Affair….. Should There Liability for Intentional Interference With Marriage?

The reports are all over the media of how Tiger Woods apparently carried on an affair with his mistress, Jamiee Grubbs, for almost three years! Some reports (mostly tabloids at this stage) quote Jamiee as stating that Tiger would visit her every few months and they’d “enjoy each other’s company.” Aside from the issue of what can be in a husband’s (or wife’s) mind when cheating… what is the deal with these women who go along with these full-blown affairs with men they know are married?

I’ve written previously about the idea of whether or not you should be able to sue the person who has an affair with your spouse or partner… and your comments are greatly appreciated and insightful. In that post, I intentionally focused on the situation of carrying on an all-out affair with full knowledge that the other person was married. In the business world, one can be held liable for tortiously interfering with a business relationship. For instance, if a person convinces another to break his/her business promises or contracts, or prevents a business person from living up to the same, the meddler can be held liable to the injured party who did not receive the benefits of the business relationship. Should there be a similar legal concept for marital relationships? Isn’t that what these cheating partners do?…. convince a husband to break his marriage promises, interfere with the husband’s marital relationship, preventing the wife from receiving all the benefits of the marriage relationship to which she is otherwise entitled?

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Interesting arguments on both sides. After reading so many of your comments, it is clear to me that a betrayed spouse certainly is left without a legal remedy…. without a “day in court” …. against a man or woman who intentionally interferes with his or her marriage. Tiger’s wife can only renegotiate her prenuptual agreement… she has no direct remedy against the woman who intentionally, and seriously, caused her injury.
Yes, I call that an interesting idea and with which I have some serious problems. As noted above, this idea comes too close to an alienation of affection suit. Indiana is not going to give alienation of affection a revival. (Well, that is my opinion and I am sticking to it.)

Secondly, having some knowledge of third party interference with contracts, I see both a lot of technical/practical problems:
  1. That the third party knew of the marriage contract (does not apply to Woods but if you are going to propose a legal remedy it has to apply generally).
  2. The offended spouse will be getting money damages (this being a civil suit), but how will they be calculated?
  3. Are the courts or legislatures going to import the justification and/or malice requirements?
  4. Since money is the remedy in a civil suit, remember that this money will have to come out of the defendant's assets and/or income. You can get a big judgment but not be able to collect. I call that adding insult to injury.
  5. Speaking of judgments, how many plaintiffs will want to put this kind of case to a jury trial? Might take a good look at Family Law Prof's Hope Cheating Spouse's Lover is Rich and especially the comment. I think that comment represents what will be the general reaction of your typical juror.
Yes, the idea is interesting but it is not a good idea.

3 comments:

Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.Ed. said...

You say; "the meddler can be held liable to the injured party who did not receive the benefits" in reference to a business arrangement but I feel this is one area of the law that should be applied to family law. Predators are out there wrecking havoc on family life and they should be seen as responsible for damages to the spouse and children.

Sam Hasler said...

Actually, your quote is from the article I quoted. I did not say that.

I realize this idea has a lot emotional appeal. If you had read the whole of my post and the post I linked to, it might have been clearer that: 1) this type of lawsuit used to exist in Indiana and the legislature got rid of it a long time ago because it was misused and 2) the practical problems of bringing it back. Not all that sounds good emotionally is good practically.

Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.Ed. said...

Sorry for the mis quote. I should have said "in your post it read" or some such thing. I did read your entire post.

We are living in a time of accountability and when there is damage done through willful interference the doer of the damage should be held accountable. I hope we are coming to an end of "no fault" everything for cases where purposeful injury has been inflicted.

I'm in Ontario, Canada and many abusers get away with their behavior because of the no fault laws.