In most states, carrying on with somebody’s spouse runs the risk of a knuckle sandwich and a stern tsk tsk.
But in North Carolina, philandering with the legally wed carries the additional danger of a multi-million-dollar lawsuit, a penalty handed down to many who have crossed the marriage line.
The state remains one of six nationwide that allows suits for alienation of affection, despite the General Assembly’s past attempts to strike the law from the books as an outdated intrusion into the choices of consenting adults.
On Thursday, a Durham County judge awarded BMX bike show personality Keith King an $8.8 million judgment against the man he said seduced his wife and wrecked his marriage.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
But spurned spouses have been awarded that and much more. Here are a few cases that stand out.
Betty Devlin vs. Carol Puryear
In what is thought to be the largest monetary award in this category, a judge in Raleigh awarded $30 million in 2011 to Betty Puryear, the former wife of a trucking company owner.
Puryear and her husband had been married 13 years until 2007, when at his father’s funeral, Donald Puryear met his ex-fiancee, who slipped him her telephone number at the service, according to court records.
Soon after, records said, Donald Puryear began an affair with then-Betty Devlin, leading to separation, divorce and his ex-wife’s lawsuit.
“For my client, it was not about the money,” Stephanie Jenkins, Carol Puryear’s lawyer, told the News & Observer in 2011. “It was about sending a message that people should be held accountable for their actions.”
Jeff Presser vs. Tom Oddo
In 1999, court records said, Debra Tyson grew unhappy in her marriage to Tom Oddo, a wrestling coach at Davidson College.
She called Jeff Presser, her boyfriend from college and high school and a doctor in Florida, and soon started a series of sexual liaisons in a Charlotte hotel, court records said.
“Life seemed so marvelously full of possibilities this past weekend,” Presser wrote to Tyson in an email, according to a 2001 News & Observer story.
Tyson and her husband separated and divorced, but Oddo sued Tyson in 2000, winning what was then a record judgment of $1.4 million.
In 2003, an appeals court knocked the decision down to $500,000 in punitive damages, calling the original excessive.
Veronica Filipowski vs. Melissa Oliver
Veronica Filipowski originally sought $20 million in her alienation of affection lawsuit, arguing that her marriage to former Winston-Salem Dash baseball team owner Andrew “Flip” Filipowski had been shattered by an affair.
In her complaint, Filipowski said she and her husband were friends with Melissa Oliver and her husband for 10 years and lent them money to open the former Xia Asian Fusion Cuisine Restaurant on Spruce Street, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. They traveled together, and Oliver babysat the Filipowskis’ daughter.
She said she discovered the affair with Oliver, according to The Associated Press, after hearing a voicemail left for her husband, who also owned an investment firm.
But her case against Oliver was settled out of court in 2012 for considerably less: $107,500.
What states have alienation of affection laws?
Hawaii, North Carolina, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota and Utah
Source: The Washington Post