It isn’t often that we get to see the phrase “joint stipulation of fraud”.
But, in the Massachusetts Appeals Court’s recent Shea v. Cameron, it is the perfect appetizer to a meal of mutual marital chicanery that resulted in the court’s decision to distance the itself from the:
… “ingratitude, avarice, broken faith, brutal words, and heartless disregard of feelings of others,” which although blameworthy, are not legally compensable.
He lied about loving her. They married. He cheated. She filed for divorce. She withdrew her complaint. She filed a new complaint, this time for annulment. He snapped up that opportunity, only too happy to admit his faux amour.
Not so fast. After the parties presented their cooked-up annulment petition to the court, Ms. Shea served Mr. Cameron – on his way out of the courtroom, no less - with an complaint demanding a cookbook of damage remedies based on his “fraudulent inducement to marry”.
First, the Probate and Family Court, and then the Superior Court, kicked out Shea’s claims on summary judgment. But, the second judge “reported” the question to the Appeals Court, which took the matter up despite its procedural reservations. After a scholarly review of the history of various “heart balm” actions, the court wisely ended the matter for good, with unassailable logic:
- the law provides remedies for married persons when they break up, for equitable property division and support; and
- when the wife chose annulment instead of divorce, she gave up those remedies, since no marriage ever existed, a fiction of her own design.
Thus did Ms. Shea hoist herself, luring Mr. Cameron into admitting fraud, while plotting to then show him, but accidentally giving him a free pass, in the process.
There is just no honor in fraud anymore.