Who Gets The Engagement Ring After A Break Up?

Much has been made in recent days of a Georgia man having to pay $50,000 for breaking an engagement to his fiancee.

Engagement ring.
Engagement ring.

In Connecticut the most common form of engagement litigation involves engagement rings. Engagement ring litigation is really an extension of property and contractual litigation.

Connecticut follows the modern view is that the gift of the engagement ring is a
conditional gift, the condition being the subsequent marriage of the parties. If the
marriage does not take place, the condition has not been met and the ring should be returned to the donor. Thorndike v. Demirs, No. CV05-5000243S (J.D. Waterbury at Waterbury, Jul. 26, 2007.

Connecticut has adopted the modern view for practical reasons. First, “No-fault’ jurisdictions highlight that the primary purpose behind the engagement period is to allow the couple to test the permanency of their feelings for one another, and with that purpose in mind, it would be irrational to penalize the donor for taking steps to prevent a possibly unhappy marriage.

Further, Connecticut has adopted this rule for judicial economy.  “We do not want to require our judiciary to tackle the seemingly insurmountable task of determining which party was at fault for the termination of an engagement for marriage, as such may force trial courts to sort through volumes of self-serving testimony regarding who-did-what during the engagement.”

There are various exceptions to this rule (e.g. fraud) but the general rule in Connecticut is that the ring belongs to the donor until “I-do’s” are exchanged.

Government Shutdown Could Impact Connecticut Real Estate Closings

“This is going to be very disruptive to the mortgage industry and pretty much result in a freeze of the pipeline,” said Craig Strent, CEO of Bethesda, Md.-based Apex Home Loans. “New loans can be taken, but without IRS and Social Security number verifications, [they] will not be able to proceed to closing.” – CNBC

We’re watching this situation very closely. The lenders that I spoke with yesterday were unsure exactly how the government shutdown will impact real estate closings in Connecticut.

Suffice to say the longer the shutdown the greater the impact.


McKeen Law Firm FIrm, LLC is a Connecticut law firm that practices in the area of real estate law.


Using A Mac? Use FireFox To e-file Documents With Connecticut Courts

Converting from using PCs to Macs has been great. The only problem that I’ve encountered is e-filing documents with the Connecticut Judicial Branch.

My default browser is Chrome. My Mac comes preinstalled with Safari. I can’t obtain a viable version of Internet Explorer.

The Connecticut judicial branch website does not play nice with either Chrome or Safari. Some judicial Branch forms won’t download while others will download but won’t allow you to save information in fields. Forget trying to upload documents.

If you are e-filing documents and wish to preserve your sanity – download Firefox.

“Appropriately The Day Preceding Valentine’s Day”……CT’s Great Engagement Ring Case

Engagement Ring

I’ve never posted a full case opinion on this blog before.  Opinions usually lack appeal to a general audience. It’s why lawyers are paid to read them. But the case of White v. Finch is worth the read on this Valentine’s Day:

This is an action in which the plaintiff seeks to recover from the defendant the sum of $515.91, alleged to be the value of an engagement ring which, the engagement broken, the defendant has refused to return.

This is a case in which the credibility of the witnesses has greatly influenced the decision of the court. Pagano v. Mitchell, 9 Conn.Sup. 329. The parties joined in some very spirited issues of veracity. Juliano v. Latella, 12 Conn.Sup. 471.

In October, 1962, the plaintiff, then a teacher in the public school and a church organist in the town of Clinton, met the defendant. Going out together, they developed a mutual fondness, one for the other, and, before Christmas, 1962, the plaintiff proposed marriage to the defendant. More unready then unwilling, the defendant demurred, claiming that she wanted time ‘to think it over.’ On February 13, 1963, appropriately the day preceding Valentine’s Day, the proposal was renewed and accepted. One week thereafter the engagement ring, subject of this action, was given to the defendant by the plaintiff. The engagement was not announced publicly immediately. This is important only in that the defendant’s failure to take immediate action to relay the joyous information to the would became a bone of contention between the parties.

There were other problems. The previous constant companionship became infrequent meetings. The plaintiff, a ski enthusiast, sought out the snowcapped hills, leaving the defendant, uninvited, alone in Clinton. The plaintiff, a forceful man, announced to his immediate friends that the wedding was to be in August, although his bride-to-be had not as yet set the date. This no more pleased her than did his gift of a book of etiquette, ‘so that she might plan the wedding correctly,’ but their status as an engaged couple remained the same.

The climax came in the summer of 1963, coincidentally with the tercentencary celebration of the founding of the town of Clinton. Among the planned festivities, there was to be a beauty contest which the defendant had been asked to enter, representing her mother’s garden club. To this the plaintiff had multiple objections, the most cogent of which was that he was, as he stated, to be a judge in the contest. The ethical argument won out, and the defendant withdrew, attending the contest as an observer. The plaintiff, far from being a judge, was not even there. He had gone to the defendant’s home and, not finding her there, suspected the worst.

However unfounded were these suspicions, they remained with the plaintiff until the next day, when the defendant came to the plaintiff’s lodging to seek the return of a punchbowl given them as an engagement present. The purpose of the quest was innocuous. She wanted to use it. The plaintiff at first refused to return it, saying that it had been given to them for their home and there was to be no home. Then followed his statement, ‘As far as I am concerned, this engagement is through.’ The following day the defendant returned to the plaintiff all gifts given her by him. She did not return the engagement ring. Subsequently, an announcement was made in the newspaper, at the defendant’s bidding, that the engagement had been terminated ‘by mutual consent.’

The question whether the engagement was broken by one of the parties or terminated by mutual consent cannot be determined by a newspaper article, calculated to preserve the dignity of both parties as far as the rest of the world was concerned. The defendant could have done little else.

Whether the defendant would have retreated from the engagement before the plaintiff said the fateful words is not in issue. Whatever words were spoken and whatever action was taken to terminate the engagement were spoken and taken by the plaintiff.

The question as to the ownership of the engagement ring is unique in this jurisdiction. Whether Connecticut people are quick to adjust such problems without adjudication or unwilling to publicize them is not quite clear. Others in other jurisdictions have not been so shy. The Roman Law provided for the return of betrothal gifts when the parties mutually dissolved the contract and for forfeiture by the party at fault when the repudiation was unjustified. Fryer, Readings on Personal Property (3d Ed.) p. 957. The prevailing view in the United States and England follows the Roman Law in placing weight upon the fault of the parties. Hence, it has been held that where an engagement is broken owing to the fault of the donor, he may not recover the ring. Schultz v. Duitz, 253 Ky. 135, 69 S.W.2d 27, 92 A.L.R. 600; Beck v. Cohen, 237 App.Div. 729, 262 N.Y.S. 716; Beer v. Hart, 153 Misc. 277, 274 N.Y.S. 671. The decisions are based upon the theory that the ring is given upon an implied condition that the marriage will take place. The law construes a promise of marriage generally to be a promise to marry on request. Clark v. Pendleton, 20 Conn. 495, 505. Seldom are such contracts expressed in very definite language, and they are not improperly or infrequently inferred as much from the conduct of the parties toward each other as from any direct evidence of expressed stipulations. Waters v. Bristol, 26 Conn. 398, 405.

A breach of an executory contract by anticipation occurs only when there is a distinct, unequivocal and absolute refusal to perform. The renunciation must be so distinct that its purpose is manifest and so absolute that the intention to no longer abide by the terms of the contract is beyond question. Wonalancet Co. v. Banfield, 116 Conn. 582, 586, 165 A. 785; Wells v. Hartford Manila Co., 76 Conn. 27, 35, 55 A. 599. No words could have been more distinct, more unequivocal than the plaintiff’s: ‘As far as I am concerned, the engagement is through.’ There was, indeed, a breach of the promise to marry, but it came about through the actions and words of the plaintiff.

It is well settled that the party who has initiated the action and who seeks a judgment in his favor must prove that which he alleges, if he would prevail. Stevens v. Smoker, 84 Conn. 569, 572, 80 A. 788; Lockwood v. Lockwood, 80 Conn. 513, 521, 69 A. 8. This burden of proof the plaintiff has not sustained.

It would be academic to discuss the question of damages here.

For the reasons above stated, the issues are found for the defendant.

Accordingly, judgment may enter for the defendant, who may receive her costs.

-HOLDEN, Judge

White v. Finch, 3 Conn. Cir. Ct. 138, 139, 209 A.2d 199, 200 (1964)


Are Sunday Liquor Sales Hurting Package Stores?

Laws often have unintended consequences. Critics of repealing Sunday sales argued that allowing Sunday sales would increase alcohol consumption while various liquor industry groups hoped that would be the case.

Last week, I stopped by my local package store.  I asked the clerk about the impact of Sunday sales on his business.

He said “It’s terrible”. beer

I said, “How so? More work for the same money?”

He responded, “I wish. It’s worse than that. Less money and more work. Our revenues have been down since the new law went into effect. People used to over buy on Friday and Saturday and now they’re not because stores are open on Sunday.”

That’s one small package store owner’s experience. It will be interesting to see what impact if any the law has on sales tax revenues from alcohol across the state.

No Steve Jobs Action Figure For Connecticut?

If what you’ve been sitting around and thinking “you know, my life would be complete if only I had a creepy Steve Jobs action figure” – you  may be out of luck.

Chinese toymaker, Icons wants to make this doll or as I call it “The Steve Jobs Barbie”:

"And one more thing...."

Recently an NBC station reported that:

Apparently the doll may have problems in several states: Indiana, Illinois, Texas, Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, California, Ohio, Virginia, Washington, New Jersey, Nevada, Nebraska, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma, all of which have posthumous laws on the books. That’s not great news for In Icons.

Here’s the relevant Connecticut law that I was able to find on this matter (in a 10 minute search on Westlaw). I was expecting to find a statute but I didn’t see one. If you know of a specific statute please send it to me and I’ll be happy to change this post.

The Connecticut Supreme Court has never provided the courts with the elements required to state a claim sounding in appropriation of name or likeness, it has acknowledged the tort’s existence under the law of Connecticut. Goodrich v. Waterbury Republican-American, Inc., 188 Conn. at 127, 448 A.2d 1317; Venturi v. Savitt, Inc., 191 Conn. 588, 592, 468 A.2d 933 (1983).  The Court in Goodrich adopted the Restatement Second of Torts.

Restatement (Second), Torts § 652C, Appropriation of Name or Likeness: “One who appropriates to his own use or benefit the name or likeness of another is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy.” Comment (b) to that section provides: “The common form of invasion of privacy under the rule here stated is the appropriation and use of the plaintiff’s name or likeness to advertise the defendant’s business or product, or for some similar commercial purpose. Apart from statute, however, the rule stated is not limited to commercial appropriation. It applies also when the defendant makes use of the plaintiff’s name or likeness for his own purposes and benefit, even though the use is not a commercial one, and even though the benefit sought to be obtained is not a pecuniary one.” 3 Restatement (Second), Torts § 652C, comment (b).

Comment (a) provides that “[t]he interest protected by the rule stated in this Section is the interest of the individual in the exclusive use of his own identity, in so far as it is represented by his name or likeness, and in so far as the use may be of benefit to him or to others.” 3 Restatement (Second), Torts § 652C, comment (a).

The comment (d) provides in relevant part: “The value of the plaintiff’s name is not appropriated by mere mention of it, or by reference to it in connection with legitimate mention of his public activities; nor is the value of his likeness appropriated when it is published for purposes other than taking advantage of his reputation, prestige, or other value associated with him, for purposes of publicity … It is only when the publicity is given for the purpose of appropriating to the defendant’s benefit the commercial or other values associated with the name or the likeness that the right of privacy is invaded.”  3 Restatement (Second), Torts § 652C, comment (d).

Icons is clearly attempting to use Jobs’ likeness for a commercial purpose. It’ll be interesting to see if the “Steve Jobs Barbie” makes its way to Connecticut stores. If it does, I’m betting on either Jobs’ estate or Apple filing a law suit against Icon in Connecticut.

Hat tip to CT Capitol Report’s Tom Dudchick.

Cord Blood Legislation Update

Last week, I spoke with Senator Len Fasano. Senator Fasano has introduced legislation to create a public cord blood bank. I believe such legislation is important to the health of Connecticut residents and vital to our economy as we look for new ways to fight and treat cancer.

Senator Fasano has been working on this legislation for some time. Over the summer Senator Fasano formed a task force to investigate how to create a public cord blood bank. Researchers from Yale and UConn were on the task force.

Presently, it’s not viable to operate a public bank in Connecticut. Cord blood from Connecticut would be stored out of state. Cells that were unable to be used would be provided to researchers in Connecticut. The bank would begin making money for the State within 5 years.

The benefits are significant considering most cord blood is presently discarded.

Senator Fasano will be holding a press conference on cord blood banking on March 1, 2011 in advance of a public hearing on the matter on March 2, 2011. Senator Fasano is optimistic that the legislation will pass because it enjoys bipartisan support.

I urge you to ask your legislator to support establishing a public cord blood bank. It just may save the life of someone you know.

What’s The Warmest State CT Lawyers Can Waive Into?

I’m sick of shoveling. Facebook tells me everyone else is sick of winter too.

With plenty of time to both shovel and commute I often find myself daydreaming about practicing law in a warmer jurisdiction.

No snow here.

Then I wonder whether studying for the bar exam is worse than shoveling. This is a close one.

I swore when I took the Connecticut bar exam that I’d only ever take it or any other exam once. It’s a horrible experience.

This all got me to thinking about what state’s can I be admitted to practice without having to take another bar exam?

Hawaii? No.

California? No.

Florida? No.

Arizona? No.

Nevada? No.

I see a pattern here. Warm states don’t want lawyers from cold weather states deciding they’ve had enough of winter and relocating.

It’s easy to waive into plenty of cold weather states. For instance, Sarah Palin’s Alaska would welcome me with open arms.

The warmest place I could find that would let me in without taking the bar exam again is North Carolina.  Hmmm….maybe I should register anorthcarolinalawbog.com …..

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