Almost as awkward as a broken engagement is deciding what to do with the ring. For one jilted fiancée, the decision to keep her $53,000 white-gold, 2.97-carat ring was made in court. Late last week, New York State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia ruled that Christa M. Clark, 38, could keep her ring, in a lawsuit filed by her ex-fiancé Louis J. Billittier Jr., 55, to reclaim it.
On July 1, 2012, only three months before their wedding, Clark, a nail technician from upstate New York, received a shocking text message from Billittier, co-owner of Chef’s Restaurant and her fiancé of three years, according to a story published by the Buffalo News. He informed her that their relationship was over. “You’re doing this through a text message????” she replied. Billittier promised to reimburse Clark for money she had spent on wedding preparations. He then added, “Plus you get a $50,000 parting ring. Enough for a down payment on a house.”
A few weeks later, angry that Clark was still in contact with his family, Billittier texted, “Keep it up, and I will take back the ring as well.” His final message: “You by law have to give it back. You’re nowhere near the person I thought you were. You don’t deserve it.”
Those text messages sealed Billittier’s fate. Judge Russell P. Buscaglia ruled that because Billittier referred to the ring as a “parting gift,” it no longer was associated with the promise of marriage.
“I was being sarcastic, like a game show host – you get a parting gift,” Billittier claimed, in his own defense. That excuse didn't hold up for the judge, who called it a classic case of "giver's remorse," Buscaglia added.
Yahoo Shine could not reach Clark, Billittier, or his lawyer for comment, however Clark’s attorney, Beverley S. Braun, told Yahoo Shine, “We believe the decision speaks for itself regarding the applicable legal standards.”
According to the documents emailed to Yahoo Shine from Buscaglia’s office, prior to 1965, a law dubbed the "heart balm statute” prohibited people from suing their exes to reclaim engagement rings. However, that law changed to allow people to retrieve gifts given in contemplation of marriage, regardless of why the relationship ended. And in New York state, the groom usually does get the ring back, with one exception — if the intent of the ring changes. In Billittier’s case, he referred to the ring as a "parting ring," which changed its meaning.
“Many gifts are given for reasons that sour with the passage of time,” wrote Buscaglia in his ruling. “Unfortunately, the gift law does not allow a donor to recover or revoke…a gift simply because his or her reasons for giving it have soured.”
The lesson: In love, there are no guarantees — especially when it comes to jewelry.
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