It’s a juicy media story, featuring a former prosecutor turned football executive, a roller derby queen, a jilted fiancÃ© and a fire-breathing feminist attorney. But beneath it all is a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court that may have serious implications for many Lovefraud readers.
Cast of characters:
Matthew C. Couloute: Attorney, former prosecutor, affiliated with the NFL, former VP and counsel of the United Football League.
Stacey Blitsch: Roller derby queen for the Bay City Bombers. She had a relationship with Couloute, and they have a son together.
Amanda Ryncarz: Another woman who had a relationship with Couloute—she thought she was his fiancÃ©.
Gloria Allred: Celebrity feminist attorney now representing the two women.
Matthew Couloute filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan against Blitsch and Ryncarz, accusing both of them of making defamatory statements about him on LiarsCheatersRUs.com, a website that allows people to post comments about their exes. Here’s the post:
Matthew C. Couloute Jr. on LiarsCheatersRUs.com
The two women retained an attorney to represent them in New York, but Gloria Allred also jumped into the fray and held a press conference last week to announce the women’s response to the lawsuit.
Stacey Blitsch, in her statement, denied posting anything on LiarsCheatersRUs.com, and says she told Couloute that before he filed suit. But she says Couloute has forced her into court repeatedly over issues regarding their son.
Amanda Ryncarz, in her statement, admitted posting comments about Couloute on LiarsCheatersRUs.com. She said:
Matthew led me to believe that we were going to get married. I was shocked when he called me on the telephone on October 3, 2010 to tell me that our relationship was not working, and I was even more shocked to learn that twelve days later, he married another woman.
Ryncarz also said, “I do believe that women should have a legal right to share information with each other if they feel that they have been betrayed in a relationship.”
According to Allred’s statement in the press conference, Couloute is suing the women for “”˜tortious interference with prospective business relations’ because he alleges that the posting has resulted in his losing prospective clients who read or became aware of these allegations.”
By the way, one definition of defamation per se is making false allegations that injure a person’s trade, profession or business. By claiming that the Internet posting is interfering with his business, Couloute does not have to prove that the statements are defamatory. (For more on defamation lawsuits, my previous post on Exposing the sociopath.)
In the meantime, Couloute told the New York Post why he’s suing:
The point is you should not be able to anonymously defame people on a Web site set up in Panama outside the laws of the United States and get away with it. I’ve had a successful career my whole life, am good at what I do, and have absolutely no recourse against this company. And neither do you. I can sign on to the site and post your name and write anything I want about you. So my voice is the only thing I have, and that’s why I’m speaking out.
Read Fighting Internet insults on NYPost.com
In the press conference, Gloria Allred announced that she and her clients have filed a motion asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed. She said in her statement:
We believe that lawsuits of this kind should not be allowed. The public policy of this nation should be that women have the right to exercise their free speech, and should not be silenced and afraid to speak out if they have experiences with men who have lied to them or cheated on them.
Unfortunately, the courts in this country do not protect women against liars and cheaters. In fact, the laws protect men who lie and cheat on their girlfriends.
Every state in this country has enacted laws, typically called Anti-Heart Balm Statutes, which protect men when they tell lies to their lovers even when these lies are fraudulent and even when they cause not only a broken heart but financial ruin to women who believe these lies. They also allow men to cheat on their girlfriends and break promises to them
Indeed, in New York the Legislature has abolished the right to sue for alienation of affection or breaching a promise to marry.
Women have to protect themselves because the Legislatures and the courts certainly won’t and don’t.
For example, in California the law states “A fraudulent promise to marry or to cohabit after marriage does not give rise to a cause of action for damages.” False representations, even fraudulent representations, is not enough to escape California’s anti-heart-balm statutes.
It is bad enough that male Legislators throughout the country have given blanket protection to men who lie and cheat but lawsuits similar to this one seem to be designed to ensure that women are afraid to even warn each other.
Enough is enough! Women must have a voice and be able to at least speak to each other on matters of common interest without fear of being dragged into court. It is ironic that men can look to the courts to shield and protect them when they lie or cheat on their girlfriends and then can resort to the courts once again if a woman tells anyone about those lies.
An important point is at stake in this case—whether someone can expose the actions of a lying, cheating lover on the Internet. This is critical to us here at Lovefraud, because almost all of us were involved with lying, cheating lovers. Sociopaths exploit people because that’s what they do, and they will continue to exploit all the unfortunate people who will become their lovers in the future. Many, many people have contacted me, wanting to expose the sociopath in their lives so that other people don’t have to suffer what they suffered.
Unfortunately, Allred has issued an inflammatory statement to cast this as a sexist issue. The problem is not men who cheat on women, it is sociopaths who cheat on whomever they are with. But because Allred is a “feminist” lawyer, she is painting this as a “feminist” cause. She did, in the press conference, admit that some women cheat, but she said men cheat more.
The importance of exposing liars and cheaters is not a feminist issue, and I worry that Allred’s characterization will do more harm than good.
Heart balm laws
The truly fascinating aspect of this case, however, is the discussion of heart balm laws, or anti-heart balm laws. To confuse matters, both terms refer to the same thing. According to The ”˜Lectric Law Library:
Heart balm laws are state laws that abolish the rights of action for monetary damages as solace for the emotional trauma caused by a loss of love and relationship.
I’d never heard of heart balm laws, so I looked into them further. The history of these laws is fascinating. The laws were enacted centuries ago when women were considered to be the property first of their fathers, then of their husbands. The idea was that if a man’s wife became involved with another lover, he had lost the affections of his wife, which were his property, and he was entitled to file suit against the lover.
Later, women could file lawsuits against former fiancÃ©s. If a man proposed marriage, the woman accepted the proposal, and the man reneged on the proposal—well, there was a time when society considered this to be very bad.
Then the laws started being abused. Imagine that! Women would entice rich men to propose marriage, the men would have second thoughts, and the women would sue. Apparently there were some nasty cases of breaking off engagements that invovled blackmail and extortion.
So back in the 1930s, many state legislatures passed new laws—called either heart balm laws or anti-heart balm laws—wiping the old laws that permitted lawsuits off the books. People could no longer sue for broken engagements.
By the way, not all states made these changes. “Alienation of affection” and other laws are still on the books in the following states: North Carolina, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, South Dakota and Utah.
Read more here:
An explanation of heart balm laws on Lectlaw.com.
Tort basics, on IllinoisDivorce.com.
This is what Gloria Allred is referring to in her statement—New York was one of the states back in the 1930s that abolished the right to sue for broken engagements and other marital issues. At the time, it probably made sense.
But back to Couloute suing his ex-lovers. There are important issues at stake in this case: The First Amendment issue of being able to expose the truth about liars and cheaters. The issue of individuals who promise affection in order to exploit others. It’s too bad that Allred is going to the media with this dumb story about women’s rights.
Men or women who knowingly exploit their romantic interests should be subject to penalty. And men or women who have been exploited should be able to warn others—because it’s highly likely that the exploiter will try to pull the same scam on someone else.