Supreme Court, Erie County
Lazar v. Lazar
Background: The parties were married in 1998 and had two children. The plaintiff wife filed for divorce in 2009 and the defendant counterclaimed for an annulment of the marriage based on fraud, including a demand of an award of compensatory and punitive damages for fraud. The defendant alleged that the plaintiff affirmatively misrepresented that she was Jewish and that she concealed her prior marriage and divorce. The plaintiff moved for summary judgment dismissing the counterclaims for fraud.
Ruling: The court dismissed the first allegation of fraud on the basis that the court would be required to entangle itself in religious doctrine. The court found that the parties’ dispute as to “who is a Jew” rested on the difference between the teachings of the American Reform Jewish doctrine and the South African Orthodox doctrine. The court, however, did state that the defendant had not, upon learning of the alleged fraud, disavowed the marriage, which would require dismissal of the claim. The defendant’s second claim was dismissed as the defendant did not disavow the marriage or inquire further after hearing rumors of the prior marriages.
Christopher S. Mattingly for the plaintiff; Randy S. Margulis for the defendant