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Do you think I have a good case Unjust enrichment?

Buffalo, NY |
Filed under: Business

My domestic partner and I:
1. Started a business (in her name)
2. Bought a home (in her name, I gave her money for the mortgage in the form of a gift letter).
We only put those two things in her name out of necessity, not because we wanted to (long story, possible duress, possible undue influence).

I spent $15,000 on credit cards renovating the home and the business.
I had to file bankruptcy because of this after we split up (she knew I would have to and asked my friends to help me months before we split up.)

I was on her health insurance as a domestic partner, btw.

Now she has the home (worth $75,000 in equity) , the business (worth $80,000+) and I have no money and I am bankrupt.

I want to sure her for the equity in the home, the value of the business and future profits, renovations.

I meant sue, not sure. I gave sweat equity to the business. I gave intellectual property to the business. She may be willing to give me $30,000 but she wants no part of a professional mediator or any binding promissary note, etc.

Attorney Answers 5

Posted

These types of cases can be very difficult to get anywhere with. There are no common law rights for you to rely on regarding the house. Since you're not on the Deed and signed a document stating that the money was a gift, you're likely going to get nothing out of the house. You may have a shot at something with the business, but there are a lot of details you're going to have to go over with an attorney. You should consult with a local litigator to see how viable your claims are. $30,000 may not be an unreasonable offer under the circumstances, but you really should explore those circumstances in detail with your own attorney.

I am not your attorney and any posts/messages or responses to posts/messages can not establish an attorney-client relationship. www.PatchogueAttorney.com You should not rely upon free legal advice and I disclaim any liability for the results if you do.

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Asker

Posted

I have an email from her saying she will pay me back for the down payment on the mortgage.

Asker

Posted

Also she will not: Do professional mediation Sign a promissory note Agree to any payment terms. Also I can't speak to her due to a protective order. Thus the need for an attorney

Paul Karl Siepmann

Paul Karl Siepmann

Posted

Yes, I think your next step should definitely be an in person consultation with a local litigation attorney. Good luck.

Asker

Posted

Thanks

Posted

The gift letter is a problem re: your equity claim.

I am a former federal and State prosecutor and now handle criminal defense and personal injury/civil rights cases. Feel free to check out my web site and contact me at (212) 577-9797 or via email at Eric@RothsteinLawNY.com. I was named to the Super Lawyers list as one of the top attorneys in New York for 2012. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers. The above answer is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.

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Asker

Posted

I have an email saying she will pay me back for the down payment and receipts for the renovations on the home.

Posted

I agree with the other attorney. In addition to their responses, it may be very difficult to find a lawyer who will take your claim on a contingency fee. Thus, you may be forced to pay an attorney on hourly basis. If the case you describe Is drawn out, it is likely you will pay your lawyer more than you will recover in your case. Thus, It will be difficult to litigate your case on a "cost-efficient basis".

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Asker

Posted

Isn't unjust enrichment there for those with no contracts? Or quasi contracts? There was an offer, acceptance and consideration given. I think the total amount I sue for could be over $200000

Asker

Posted

Aren't oral agreements, especially those between domestic partners valid?

Philip R. Brown

Philip R. Brown

Posted

Oral agreements are enforceable in Hawaii. I do not know whether your agreement would be enforceable in NY. The point of my response was that in many commercial cases, even in clearly enforceable commercial agreements, It is often difficult to litigate them in a cost effective manner. Your case seems to present that problem. I sincerely hope you find an attorney who can figure out a way to do so.

Asker

Posted

Thanks. I hope to mediate or at least get a written agreement before I litigate. Hopefully just a demand letter will get her to the table

Posted

Dear Bankrupt Partner:

New York is not a palimony state. Courts prefer that commercial disputes between business partners rely upon some form of written agreement (contract) or partnership agreement. When proof of an agreement is established by a document then the court may make a judgment derived from the memorialized understanding of the parties on how income, assets, liabilities and profits would be shared in the event a party claims damages due to breach of the agreement.

When you do not do this, you have to get beyond the appearance that two persons involved with each other to the point of declaration of domestic partnership, did what they did for love.

Consult with attorneys who may review your evidence and proof, and evaluate with you in a confidential setting causes of action you may have.

Good luck.

The answer provided to you is in the nature of general information. The general proposition being that you should try to avoid a bad outcome if you can.

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Steven Warren Smollens

Steven Warren Smollens

Posted

OK. You were offered $30,000.00, you have no money, and no written business agreements or contracts. An attorney working for you on an hourly rate, needs to be paid up front. An attorney who takes this matter on a contingency cannot earn money for the lawsuit or representation, without recovering substantially more money than the $30,000 offered to you. Even were the attorney to gain double that amount in a settlement the first $30000.00 would be immune from a portion of the fee (the client says "you did not earn a fee for that amount, I had that offered to me before meeting you...") and to make money on the excess above $30,000.00 would require a percentage fee arrangement that may be confiscatory and illegal. At a one-third contingency, the lawyer would earn $10,000. If the attorney ordinarily charges $500 per hour, the lawyer cannot invest more than 20 hours in the entire matter before representing you proves costly and not attractive to the attorney.

Posted

There are two main impediments: the deed to the house is in her name, and the gift letter evinces intent of exactly that: a gift. It will not sound viable to claim that she is unjustly enriched by a gift.

However, if you did labor, technical work or development without a signed partnership agreement, you may still have a case for unjust enrichment, as well as possibly breach of fiduciary duty. However, I think all said, $30,000 may not be so bad. Just be more careful with who you trust, and remember that a domestic partner ultimately owes you nothing.

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Posted

I think you're wrong. The three elements of unjust enrichment are satisfied and oral agreements, especially between domestic partners , are valid. Anyway, I hope she sits down with me and a mediator before this gets into litigation. However, I doubt it. She's a woman.

Yan Margolin

Yan Margolin

Posted

Some oral agreements are valid between domestic partners... they are simply not treated in any way more sacred than oral agreements between any two people. Additionally, purchases of interest in real estate must be in writing. I believe your case has some merit, but the portions given towards starting up via the gift letter, and towards the house may well be lost if the matter moves to litigation.

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