/ January 7, 2008

Conditional Gifts: When Diamonds Aren’t Forever

When an engagement is broken off, who is legally entitled to the ring? In the Michigan case of Meyer v. Mitnick, 625 N.W.2d 136 (Fastcase subscription required), the court found that “because an engagement ring is an inherently conditional gift, once the engagement has been broken, the ring should be returned to the donor. Thus, the question of who broke the engagement and why, or who was ‘at fault,’ is irrelevant. This is the no-fault line of cases.” As CNN.com points out, states take different views on the subject:

In California, it depends on who broke the engagement. For example, if the
person who received the ring is the one who is reneging on the engagement, then
that person must relinquish the jewelry. In New York, North Carolina, Minnesota,
Tennessee and other states, appellate courts say engagement rings are
conditional gifts that must be returned to the gift giver if the condition —
namely, the marriage — does not take place, regardless of who broke off the
engagement. Kansas and Montana say a gift, once given, cannot be taken
back.

Michigan follows the majority approach, but ther are a number of states like Oklahoma, which have no caselaw precedent, and Kansas and Montana which support a minority view.

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