A recently-filed lawsuit in Manhattan may call to mind the phrase “only in New York!”

According to a New York Post article by Julia Marsh, Theodora Corsell, age 67, is suing her 88 year old former lover, James Greenwald, for refusing to divorce his current wife, Marilee Greenwald.

Corsell, however, is not suing under any claim that is normally reserved for the family court system.  Rather, Corsell claims that she is due the money (her claim is for over $2 million) because of her “professional services” rendered by her on behalf of of Mr. Greenwald that “…were separate and apart from … the parties’ romantic relationship” and that once it was clear Mr. Greenwald would not be leaving his wife for Corsell, Corsell realized she would not be compensated and decided to seek redress through the courts.

Corsell contends that she acted as Mr. Greenwald’s de facto personal assistant, handling everything from resale of Mr. Greenwald’s unused New York Giants tickets to thwarting what sounds like an extortion scheme cooked up by Mr. Greenwald’s prior mistress.  Ms. Corsell further contends in her lawsuit that Mr. Greenwald promised “I owe you everything and I will compensate you” for her services.  It will certainly be interesting to see how the New York court handles this suit.

Legally speaking, it would be a rare situation where a cause of action for damages can be sustained against someone merely for refusing to divorce their current spouse.   However, it appears the legal theory that Ms. Corsell is proceeding under is known as quantum meruit which in Latin means “what one has earned.” This theory is most often utilized in contract litigation in situations where  no specific agreement may exist,  but one person has benefited from the services of another and as a result the person providing those services seeks reasonable compensation.  Corsell is clever in that she has asserted her position as a cause of action based on work she performed for Mr. Greenwald separate and apart from their romantic relationship.

Whether you find yourself in a precarious situation like Mr. Greenwald or just have general questions regarding how the law in Florida may affect your current relationship, do not hesitate to contact our office to schedule a consultation.