Last week a Superior Court judge in Durham, North Carolina awarded Keith King $8.8 million dollars in damages against Francisco Huizar III, a man who had an affair with King’s wife. This verdict is the result of North Carolina’s alienation of affection and criminal conversion laws. A remnant of English common law, causes of action for alienation of affection and criminal conversion allow a spouse to recover damages when a third party interferes with the relationship and causes deprivation of affection, frequently seen in cases of adultery.
At trial Keith King showed that he and his wife, Danielle, were happily married from 2010 until 2015. In 2015, Danielle King met Francisco Huizar at a BMX show in New York. Upon meeting, Danielle King and Francisco Huizar began an extramarital relationship. This extramarital relationship continued into 2017, when Keith King caught Danielle King and Francisco Huizar in bed together in Danielle King’s apartment.
Prior to the lawsuit, Danielle King was an employee of Keith King’s company, BMX Stunt Shows. At trial Keith King showed that this affair resulted in substantial lost revenues for BMX Stunt Shows because of an assault by Huizar and the loss of Danielle as an employee. As a result, the court considered lost revenues when awarding Keith King $2.2 million dollars in compensatory damages resulting from the extramarital affair. Additionally, the court awarded Keith King $6.6 million dollars in punitive damages for Francisco Huizar’s actions.
Although alienation of affection and criminal conversion are often alleged together, there is a distinct difference between these causes of action. Alienation of affection occurs when a third party’s actions cause a marital fracture, usually by way of enticement. Although sexual intercourse may support a claim for alienation of affection, no physical act between the defendant and the plaintiff’s spouse is required. However, sexual intercourse between the defendant and the plaintiff’s spouse is a requirement of criminal conversion.
North Carolina is one of only six (6) states to recognize causes of action for alienation of affection and criminal conversion. North Carolina has made multiple attempts to abolish criminal conversion, but the North Carolina Court of Appeals and the North Carolina General Assembly has denied each attempt. As the law stands today revisions have been made to the statute of limitations which dictates the time you have to bring claims against a spouse or ex-spouse.
If you have questions regarding alienation of affection, criminal conversion, or other legal concerns, please give us a call at (704) 457-1010 to schedule a consultation. For more information regarding our firm, attorneys, and practice areas, please visit http://www.lindleylawoffice.com/.