Jury awards abandoned wife $9 million
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
GREENSBORO — Striking a blow for the sanctity of marriage, a Guilford County jury awarded an abandoned wife $9 million in an alienation of affection suit against her husband’s lover.
A college administrator, 49-year-old Anne Lundquist told the media she doesn’t have a lot of money and will appeal the ruling. But Cynthia Shackelford, 60, whose husband, Allan, began an affair with Lundquist and lives with her now in Aurora, N.Y., said the case was about more than money.
“We would like for people to respect the sanctity of marriage,” she told the Greensboro News and Record. “We wanted a number high enough that it would keep other people from … going after other married spouses.”
In an e-mail to a News and Record blog, Allan Shackelford said the marriage had been in trouble for a long time and that his wife had asked for a divorce at least two years before his relationship with Lundquist. In defending his lover, he confessed to “numerous affairs going back to the first two years of their marriage” — a comment that elicited a response from his daughter, who said he “emotionally and financially abandoned his entire family for the last five years.”
The Shackelfords, who had been married more than three decades, separated in April 2005, but are not yet divorced. The lawsuit, alleging alienation of affection (a third party’s commission of wrongful and malicious acts that cause the loss of love and affection between a married person and the person’s spouse) and criminal conversation (adultery), was filed in 2007 and is, no doubt, one of the highest legal awards on record for such a case.
“We are glad to see this jury apply the law to affirm that marriage is a sacred union, worth defending. We hope this verdict will speak loudly and clearly to those men or women who would entertain the idea of interfering,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Certainly, it takes two to make or break a marriage and this one may have been troubled prior to this affair, but husbands and wives deserve a chance to work out their problems, which becomes much more difficult when a third party is involved.”
North Carolina is one of only seven states that have alienation of affection statutes and its laws have been weakened over the years, including changes during the last legislative session. Under the new law passed last year, if a married couple is separated, an extramarital affair is not grounds for a lawsuit.
“To abolish the cause of action for alienation of affection after that point of separation pretty much guarantees that the couple won’t reconcile, because it takes away any consequence for infidelity in the relationship,” said Tami Fitzgerald, who lobbied for the Christian Action League against the change in the law.
Before making their decision last week, the Greensboro jury heard testimony from a private investigator who observed the Allan Shackelford and Lundquist together and also learned of the fact that he had been ordered to pay his estranged wife $5,000 a month in alimony but has not been doing so. Cynthia Shackelford, who gave up her job as a teacher to raise the couple’s children, now 23 and 27, works in retail and lives in an apartment, as the family’s five-bedroom home has been sold.
She told reporters that she wanted to spread the word about the pain and harm that adultery causes.