Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Case Law Development: International Match-making Service Liable in Tort For Encouraging Immigrant Victim of Domestic Violence to Remain in Relationship and Withholding Information About Immigration Law Options
This case from the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals provides a fabulous teaching case for two aspects of domestic violence law that are sometimes difficult to fit into the syllabus: Immigration law protections for victims of domestic violence and tort liability of third parties. The case involved an international match-making service that facilitated a marriage that resulted in horrific domestic abuse of Wife, in immigrant from the Ukraine. Wife had reported the abuse to the match-maker at several of the social events hosted by the service to support and advertise their "success stories." Despite the fact that the match-maker knew about immigration protections for victims of abuse, he encouraged her to stay in the relationship, explaining that "all American men are crazy.... Maybe you just listen to him, and do what he says" and telling her that she could either work things out with Husband or be deported back to the Ukraine.
The court of appeals held that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to reasonably find that: the match-maker and his agency had a fiduciary relationship with Wife, the match-maker intentionally withheld knowledge regarding the battered spouse waiver in an effort to preserve the agency's success rate and that Wife reasonably relied upon the match-maker's advice to her detriment. Thus, the court upheld the verdict of $92,000 in compensatory damages and $341,500 in punitive damages.
Fox v. Encounters Int'l, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 9269 (April 13, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited April 16, 2006 bgf)