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Is it true that in NY an engagement ring must be returned if the engagement is called off for any reason?

Flushing, NY |

My ex-girlfriend threw away her engagement ring after we broke up. It cost $8,000 and my understanding is that in NY if the engagement is broken off for any reason, the ring must be returned. I took her to small claims court and an arbitrator heard the case. My ex didn't deny throwing the ring away. She merely gave the reason for breaking up (basically a dispute over the size of the wedding). She also claimed in her defense that I tried to patch things up for a while afterwards. I didn't see how any of that was relevant since I showed the arbitrator the receipt for the ring, and the fact that she threw it away was not in dispute. Yet the arbitrator ruled against me. Does anyone have any idea how I lost? More importantly, is there anything I can do about it?

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Attorney answers 3


Generally, courts tend to view an engagement ring as a "conditional gift" such that it is given on the 'condition' that the couple are to marry. Should the marriage not happen, the the gift should be returned because the condition is unfulfilled. However, this is not a steadfast, no-matter-what rule and courts (or arbitrators) are allowed discretion when determining if the ring is to be returned. They can listen to the facts brought before them, and rule based on their interpretation of those facts. This means that an arbitrator has every right to rule that the ring not be returned.

There's no way to tell you why you lost without hearing both sides of the case as they were presented - and even then, as I previously stated, the individual decision maker is allowed discretion. So the reason for the outcome sits largely with the arbitrator hearing your case.

You should know that arbitration is binding, so this decision has the same weight as if a Judge issued the ruling.


Withiutnbeing in the room and hearing the entire testimony it is hard to second guess a decision. Even if the decision was the wrong one in the basis of the law the arbitrator's ruling is final. You can not appeal based upon a mistake of the law. You signed a consent form to arbitrate the case. It was a white card where both parties signed the back. Judge's decision may be appealed in small claims if y order the transcript and show a mistake of the law.

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As a matter of general law you should have won. The big issue is whether the decision is appealable. Was this a Judge (appealable) or a court refereee (probably not appealable). You may have signed someting in court... what does it say?

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 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.



Are arbitrators more likely to rule for the defendant than Judges? We were told that if we wanted a judge there were too many cases to be heard and we would probably have to come back another day. Yet most people chose to wait for a judge though arbitrators were available. I wonder if they knew something I didn't. I know arbitrators decision are not appealable but I was told appeals are very seldom successful anyway.