Jilted husband sues online infidelity service Ashley Madison

Infidelity site: Ashley Madison claims 23 million members in 35 countries.
Infidelity site: Ashley Madison claims 23 million members in 35 countries.

Charlotte Observer

A North Carolina man blames the breakup of his marriage not only on the other guy, but also on the online infidelity service that he says made it happen.

“Life is short,” the Ashley Madison website coos. “Have an affair.”

Robert Schindler of Charlotte, N.C., says his ex-wife did just that. So, Schindler is suing her alleged partner in the tryst, along with Ashley Madison and its Canadian corporate parent, Avid Dating Life Inc.

North Carolina remains one of only a half-dozen states that still awards punitive damages when a marriage fails and someone other than the husband and wife is to blame.

The Schindler case attempts to apply centuries-old marriage statutes to a company marketing the new-age phenomenon of online cheating. Ashley Madison, which claims clients worldwide in the tens of millions, bills itself as “the most recognized name in infidelity.”

Schindler’s 2012 complaint, which was back in Mecklenburg, N.C., Superior Court earlier this month for a preliminary hearing, accuses the company and Eleazar “Chay” Montemayor of Charlotte with working together to seduce Schindler’s wife, ruining his 13-year marriage.

According to the lawsuit, Montemayor and Schindler’s wife began their affair in 2007 after meeting on AshleyMadison.com. Montemayor also was married at the time. They became husband and wife in October 2012.

In his lawsuit, Schindler claims that the love and affection he and his wife shared “was alienated and destroyed by the defendants.” He asks for damages of more than $10,000 under two claims: alienation of affections and criminal conversation, which is legal shorthand for extramarital sex.

Schindler’s former wife did not return calls for comment. Citing the lawsuit, Eleazar Montemayor declined to discuss the case.

His co-defendant — and the founder of Ashley Madison — said in an email that holding his company liable for the breakup of a marriage “defies most people’s common sense test.”

“Would the courts also hold a hotel room accountable? A cellphone operator if his wife called her lover on it? The car she drove?” asked Noel Biderman, a former lawyer and sports agent who started Ashley Madison in 2002.

While Ashley Madison allows its clients to communicate with each other, “we in no way participate in any ‘offline’ encounters,” Biderman said.

“I think it would be an incredibly slippery slope to attempt to espouse blame to all the technology and inanimate objects that were utilized in an affair.”

Schindler’s attorney, Chris Johnson, says Biderman’s argument misses the point.

“You can use a car to drive to school. You can use a car to drive to work. You can also use a car to have an affair. But that’s not the car’s sole purpose,” Johnson said.

“That’s the difference in this website. It’s very specific. It promotes affairs. Sadly, it’s bad enough that it happened to Robert Schindler. But it happens to many others, too.”

Research indicates that up to 40 percent of heterosexual married men will have an affair; for married women, the figure is closer to 25 percent.

Cue Ashley Madison.

“Monogamy in my opinion is a failed experiment,” Biderman, a husband and the father of two, said in 2011.

His infidelity site has 23 million members in 35 countries, according to a company spokesman.

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