South Carolina may have abolished the torts of alienation of affection and criminal conversation, but jilted lovers there can still seek balm for their broken hearts if they allege that some of the philandering took place in North Carolina, where those relics still survive.
One South Carolina man learned this lesson the hard way.
Daniel Smith, a resident of South Carolina, is suing Jerry Drumm, now also a South Carolinian, in North Carolina courts for alienation of affection and criminal conversation after Drumm allegedly wrecked Smith’s marriage. At the time of the affair, Drumm was living in Charlotte, where the trysts between he and the former Mrs. Smith are said to have happened.
Drumm tried to have the claims dismissed, saying that North Carolina courts lacked jurisdiction over him because he didn’t break up a North Carolina marriage and Smith’s suit offended public policy by allowing him to forum shop for a state that hasn’t abolished heart-balm torts. In an unpublished opinion, the North Carolina Court of Appeals rejected his arguments. If the home-wrecking took place in North Carolina, it said, it can hear claims against the lothario, even if the wrecked home lay beyond its borders.
Aside from the adultery, it’s sort of a romantic story. Drumm and the former Mrs. Smith had dated in high school and been engaged more than 40 years earlier. Drumm apparently had been trying to track her down for some time. The two now live together in South Carolina, according to the complaint.
Forty years and the bonds of marriage did not stop Drumm’s pursuit of his high school sweetheart—just as state boundaries can’t stop Smith’s pursuit of Drumm’s money.