Online Dating Site Targeted for Alienation of Affection

Online dating is all the rage these days. No longer is it frowned upon to turn to the interwebs in search of a soulmate. With sites like FarmersOnly.com, ClownDating.com, and SinglesWithFoodAllergies.com, it seems like there is an online dating site for just about everyone. We suppose it is a good thing to help ease the stress of trying to find one’s perfect match. But, what if those online dating sites help those who maybe shouldn’t be looking? Like married folks, for example. At least one North Carolina man finds it to be a problem and has filed suit as a result. According to a report out of the Charlotte Observer, after Robert Schindler’s now ex-wife had an affair with a man she met on AshleyMadison.com back in 2007, he filed suit against the site and the man with whom his wife cheated, alleging an alienation of affections and criminal conversation (a/k/a affair). Schindler alleges the site, whose motto is “Life is short. Have an affair,” worked together with the man to ruin his 13-year marriage. Schindler seeks monetary damages in excess of $10,000 as per the North Carolina pleadings rules. Before we dive into our thoughts on the merits of this claim, it should be noted that North Carolina narrowed its alienation laws back in 2009 to permit claims only against “natural persons.” Schindler’s attorneys have argued that because the affair began in 2007 – two years prior to the law change – he is permitted to file suit against the company. The merits of this argument will have to be played out in the courts. We’ll be watching this one closely, folks.

Alienation law changes aside, this lawsuit seems to defy common sense on its face. Yes, Ashley Madison‘s niche in the marketplace is matching up adulterous individuals. The site, however, doesn’t make anyone actually have an affair. Any affair takes two willing participants. We highly doubt that an otherwise happy spouse casually browses the Internet with a happy marriage, stumbles across Ashley Madison, and decides to pursue an affair. The site is nothing more than the vehicle she used to turn the affair into a reality. Believe it or or not, affairs occurred for years without the assistance of online dating sites. We are guessing any spouse can have an affair even without the assistance of Ashley Madison. We would never condone an extra-marital affair. We here at Abnormal Use just don’t think you should hold an online dating site liable for facilitating one. Sure, Ashley Madison‘s unabashed promotion of affairs looks bad on the surface, but is the site really any more ridiculous than a site like DarwinDating.com with a mission to weed out ugly people through the natural selection process? Online dating is simply doing behind a computer what people have been doing inside a bar for hundreds of years. Oh, well.

(Hat Tip: TortsProf Blog / Overlawyered).

Comments

  1. I am also skeptical that this suit has merit, but, I do think that Ashley Madison’s marketing somewhat distinguishes them from other online dating services. Ashley Madison wasn’t just a random dating site used to have an affair, it is a dating service designed and marketed at those wishing to engage in extra-marital affairs. That seems like a matter of free speech, and not something I think should give rise to a civil suit, but it IS different from other dating services where an affair might happen to occur.