A husband will soon find out that saying “I do” while not meaning it can have legal consequences.
The high court in Johannesburg gave the wife the go-ahead to claim damages after her husband kicked her out of the house within weeks of taking their vows.
Judge Denise Fisher found that there was no bar in SA law for the claim by a wife against her husband based on the actio iniuriarum – an action to protect a person’s dignity and reputation.
Judge Fisher, however, did put her foot down and disallowed the wife to institute damages for the financial loss she had suffered as a result of, among others, the expensive wedding she had to fork out for.
The matter came before the court when the husband objected to both claims and asked the court to bar them in law before served before a court. He argued that to allow them had the potential to have a negative impact on marital relationships which were vital to societal health and well-being.
The parties are married out of community of property and according to the accrual regime, but are in the throes of divorce. They were married after a courtship which lasted two years and eight months, during which the husband (the defendant) by his conduct and verbally expressed love for the wife (the plaintiff).
The husband proposed marriage in September 2018, which the plaintiff accepted. They married and the wife spent money on the wedding, amounting to R331342.
However, the marriage relationship was short-lived. About a week after the marriage, the husband began conducting himself towards the wife in an intentionally insulting and denigrating way.
This culminated in him asking her to leave the matrimonial home. The wife discovered that when the husband proposed marriage he had considered that their romantic relationship had broken down irretrievably.
He failed to disclose this to her. In misleading her, she now claims that he made a fraudulent misrepresentation which induced the marriage.
Regarding the first claim of financial loss, the judge Fisher said the wife must have appreciated and managed the risks associated with an unsuccessful marriage. The judge added that it was in any event the wife’s choice to pay for the wedding expenses. She found no cause of action on this claim.
The court, however, allowed her to proceed with her general claim for her injured feelings.