Kentucky courts do recognize a cause of action for the intentional or reckless infliction of severe emotional distress, often referred to as the tort of outrage. Several courts, including the Supreme Court of Kentucky, have held that this tort provides a potential exception to the general rule that consensual sex does not provide grounds for a civil action. The exception only arises when the defendant, through a special relationship with the plaintiff, owes the plaintiff an independent duty of care, the breach of which is both outrageous and severely distressing.
Appellant former husband sued appellees, a priest and a diocese, alleging that the priest had inflicted severe emotional distress by undermining the former husband's marriage when the priest had an affair with the former husband's wife. The trial court ruled that the injury to the former husband was not one for which the law provided a remedy, hence, it entered a summary judgment dismissing the complaint.
Can damage to a marriage be rendered legally actionable?
The Court ruled that the general rule in Kentucky was that engaging in consensual sexual relations, even with another's spouse, did not justify an action in tort. The mere fact that a person was a priest or other clergyman did not make him legally liable to his parishioners for personal liaisons. The relationship between the priest and the former husband was not a counseling relationship, was essentially religious, and its duties were not those of the civil law. The priest's affair with the wife did not give the former husband a cause of action for outrage and since the law did not recognize the injury, the former husband's claim against the diocese was also defeated.