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Courts and the law have long held sympathy for a man who finds his wife or girlfriend cheating on him. There were once exceptions to murder statutes and lesser penalties for a man who discovered his wife "in flagrante delicto" and lashed out violently. While those laws have either been formally removed or are no frowned upon by courts, some states still allow a jilted husband to sue a home-wrecking party.
One such lawsuit was recently revived in North Carolina, where a man is suing a doctor for an affair with his nurse wife.
Mark Malecek claims Dr. Derek Williams, a pediatric cardiologist at Wake Forest Baptist Health, had an affair with Malecek's wife, Amber, who worked at the hospital as a nurse. According to the lawsuit, initially filed in 2015, the Maleceks had a happy marriage until Amber began working with Dr. Williams, who allegedly persuaded Amber to cheat, knowing full well that she was married.
Malecek discovered the affair through emails and text messages between the two and decided to take the matter to court. He sued the doctor for alienation of affection and criminal conversation, seeking upwards of $100,000 in damages. Although those two claims are often linked, criminal conversation need not involve the commission of adultery.
A county court judge tossed Malecek's legal claims last year, but a three-judge appeals court panel revived the lawsuit last week. While admitting that alienation of affection laws were "born out of misogyny and in modern times are often used as tools for enterprising divorce lawyers seeking leverage over the other side," Judge Richard Dietz nevertheless ruled those laws are also "designed to prevent and remedy personal injury, and to protect the promise of monogamy that accompanies most marriage commitments."
North Carolina sees about 200 alienation of affection lawsuits a year, the largest of which was a $30 million award to a former wife in 2011.
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