- North Carolina’s heartbalm law strikes again, as judge orders man who slept with married woman to pay jilted husband $8.8 million [Virginia Bridges, Raleigh News & Observer, more on homewrecker tort]
- Cornell economist Rick Geddes explains the federal government’s postal monopoly [David Henderson]
- Trademark swagger: “Chicago Poke Chain Sends C&D To Hawaiian Poke Joint Demanding It Not Be Named ‘Aloha Poke'” [Timothy Geigner, Techdirt] “Shipyard Brewing Loses Its Lawsuit Over Ships and The Word ‘Head'” [same]
- “Man files lawsuit under False Claims Act against manufacturer of batteries for use in intercontinental ballistic missile launch controls, asks for $30 mil, settles for $1.7 mil. What follows is—in the trial court’s words—a “hellish” dispute over the man’s attorneys’ fees. Third Circuit: We feel you; the order reducing requested fees is affirmed in almost every respect.” [John K. Ross, Short Circuit, on U.S. ex rel. Palmer v. C&D Technologies]
- Using the law to suppress one’s competition: New York Taxi Workers Alliance cheers City Council’s move to cap Uber and ridesharing [Reuters] It’s totally normal and not at all suspicious that the city council president who wants tougher enforcement against Airbnb is also president of the state’s hotel lobby [Eric Boehm, Reason; Biloxi, Mississippi]
- For those still keeping score, it’s improper and prejudicial for the head of the nation’s law enforcement apparatus to declaim publicly against a criminal trial in progress, whether or not the defendant happens to be his own campaign manager [David Post, Volokh; April Post and podcast on inapplicable “fruit of the poisonous tree” claim]
- Welcome news: U.S. Department of Education withdraws notorious Dear Colleague letter on Title IX and misconduct accusations [Hans Bader, CEI; ABA Journal]
- Kaspersky Lab turns tables, forces E.D. Tex. patent claimant to pay to end case [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica] Following unanimous SCOTUS ruling easing fee awards for ill-grounded patent litigation, firm told to “pay $1.6 million in attorney’s fees for filing an unwarranted patent lawsuit against a competitor.” [same, Octane Fitness vs. Icon]
- Activist litigation with taxpayer imprimatur: “University Of North Carolina Law School’s Civil Rights Center Closes Following Board Of Governors Vote” [Paul Caron/ TaxProf, Bainbridge, earlier]
- Another positive review for Ben Barton and Stephanos Bibas’s Rebooting Justice [Jeremy Richter, earlier]
- Appeals court rejects constitutional challenge to North Carolina homewrecker tort (“alienation of affection”) [ABA Journal, Eugene Volokh, earlier]
- Social engineering often seen as intrinsically anti-liberty. Rightly so? [Cato Unbound: Jason Kuznicki, Alex Tabarrok and others]
“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]
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)
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.
But let me be the first to point out that, if the allegations are true, Elizabeth Edwards can take advantage of North Carolina’s unusual tort law to sue Hunter for alienation of affection. When we last looked at the state of affairs in North Carolina in 2006, there were 200 such suits a year, with some verdicts in the six and seven digits. Of course, Mrs. Edwards would need a trial lawyer willing to take on her husband first.
Efforts to abolish the tort in the state have not been successful, though it is worth noting the fact that several dozen states have abolished heartbalm statutes without anyone suggesting that this tort reform is constitutionally problematic.
Update: Edwards persuades me that the story might be true when he gives a lawyerly non-denial denial filled with negative pregnants: “That’s tabloid trash. They’re full of lies. I’m here to talk about helping people.” Someone needs to ask a more targeted question of a purported candidate for vice president or attorney general.