Philadelphia Eagles player Fletcher Cox is being sued by Husband, Joshua Jeffords, for sleeping with his wife while he she was on a business trip. Fletcher is being sued for Alienation of Effection in North Carolina for their relationship. Husband Jeffords says, "This ruined his marriage and they thought they were going to be together forever" and that Cox took everything away from him. Jeffords says he caught his wife with inappropriate pictures of the NFL player and discussions between the two on SnapChat, He has undergone psychiatric help to cope with the loss of his marriage and is suing for damages as well.
Alienation of affections is a common law tort, abolished in many jurisdictions. Where it still exists, an action is brought by a deserted spouse against a third party alleged to be responsible for the failure of the marriage. The defendant in an alienation of affections suit is typically an adulterous spouse's lover, although family members, counselors and therapists or clergy members who have advised a spouse to seek divorce have also been sued for alienation of affections. As of 2016, six US states (Hawaii, North Carolina, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah) recognize this tort.The tort of alienation of affections is similar to the tort of criminal conversation.
An action for alienation of affection does not require proof of extramarital sex. An alienation claim is difficult to establish because it comprises several elements and there are several defenses. To succeed on an alienation claim, the plaintiff has to show that the marriage entailed love between the spouses in some degree; the spousal love was alienated and destroyed; and the defendant's malicious conduct contributed to or caused the loss of affection. It is not necessary to show that the defendant set out to destroy the marital relationship, but only that he or she intentionally engaged in acts which would foreseeably impact the marriage. Thus, the defendant has a defense against an alienation claim where it can be shown that he or she did not know that the object of his or her affections was in fact married. It is not a defense that the guilty spouse consented to the defendant's conduct, but it might be a defense that the defendant was not the active and aggressive seducer. If the defendant's conduct was somehow inadvertent, the plaintiff would be unable to show intentional or malicious action. But prior marital problems do not establish a defense unless such unhappiness had reached a level of negating love between the spouses.
Million dollar verdicts have not been uncommon in North Carolina for alienation of affection and emotional distress.In March 2010, a wife won a $9 million suit against her husband's mistress. In another 2010 case, a wife successfully sued her former friend who allegedly seduced her husband while the friend was visiting the couple at their North Carolina home, resulting in the second highest award ever received in such suits. A Mecklenburg County jury awarded $1.4 million in May 2001 to a former wrestling coach against P, after the coach's wife left him for P (the jury verdict was later reduced by the NC Court of Appeals as excessive). A year 2000 verdict of $86,250 for alienation of affections and $15,000 for criminal conversion in the case of Pharr v. Beck, from Burke county was upheld on appeal. In 1997, in the case of Hutelmyer v. Cox, the Plaintiff wife was awarded $1 million against her husband's secretary who "dressed sexy at work" and had an affair with him destroying their marriage.