‘If it wasn’t for him’: Husband feels vindicated by $8.8M judgment against wife’s lover
For Keith King, suing his wife’s lover wasn’t about money. He says it was about a principle.
King last week won an $8.8 million judgment against Francisco Huizar III for criminal conversation and alienation of affection.
“It felt like the truth had come out, like I was right,” King said Monday.
King and his wife, Danielle, married in 2010. Five years later, he said, he discovered flirtatious texts between her and Huizar, a Texas man whom she met on a business trip in New York.
“My marriage was murdered. It was destroyed,” Keith King said.
He said he tried to keep the marriage together for the sake of his 5-year-old daughter. When that failed, he learned from a friend about North Carolina’s alienation of affection law.
“I said, ‘Wait a minute, you can sue the person who destroyed your marriage?’ and she said, ‘Absolutely,’” he said.
North Carolina’s so-called broken-heart tort involves two components. One is alienation of affection, which accuses someone of breaking up a happy marriage. The other is criminal conversation, which involves sexual acts. The idea dates back hundreds of years to colonial North Carolina, when women were seen as property.
Many North Carolina attorneys and state lawmakers call the law antiquated and say it should be abolished. Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota and Utah have similar laws on the books.
About 200 alienation of affection lawsuits are filed each year in North Carolina, and Keith King became one of those plaintiffs last year, when he sued Huizar.
“I think he thought it was a joke,” King said.
His attorney, Dorothy O’Neill, said the plaintiff has to prove the third party was responsible for destroying the marriage.
“This was a very classic case that just happened to have all of the factors,” O’Neill said. “Most of the cases people want to bring would never yield this type of result.”
Most alienation of affection lawsuits are settled out of court.
O’Neill said the factors working in Keith King’s favor included his effort to work on the marriage even after finding the texts, phone calls between Huizar and Danielle King and allegations that she brought Huizar to the Kings’ home and introduced him to her daughter.
Huizar couldn’t be reached for comment Monday, but his attorney, Cheri Patrick, criticized the judgment and the alienation of affection law.
“My client became embroiled in a very unfortunate situation. He never sought to air the details of this situation in public,” Patrick said in a statement. “The alienation of affections law in North Carolina is archaic, demeans the obligations of spouses in a marriage and should be stricken. Verdicts like these ignore the realities of how and why marriages fail and remove personal responsibility for a person’s own marriage.”
She has said the judgment will be appealed.
Keith King said he will probably never see most of the $8.8 million award, but he said winning the case was more important.
“I would be married right now, and we would keep growing our family, and that got destroyed,” he said. “There’s not a doubt in my mind, and I’ve always said, ‘If it wasn’t for him. If it wasn’t for him.’”