The $70k Question: Whose Ring Is It Anyway?

// 982395Engagements don’t always culminate in weddings; promised “I do’s” morph in to “Like hell I will” about 20% of the time. When that happens, one of the funnest arguments to see and never take part of revolves around a simple question: Who gets the ring?

The giver usually thinks that the ring was a conditional object that goes back to them if the marriage is a no go. The receiver usually views the offered ring as a gift that doesn’t have strings attached once it changes hands. Looming revoking clauses aren’t really the best at stirring up romance. But what does the law say? Here’s what Massachusetts’ Appeals Court thinks. From ABA Journal:

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A man who called off his engagement is entitled to the return of a $70,000-plus engagement ring and a wedding band, the Massachusetts Appeals Court has ruled in a 2-1 decision.

The appeals court ruled Sept. 13 for Bruce Johnson in his lawsuit against former fiancee Caroline Settino. The Legal Profession Blog noted the decision.

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Massachusetts law takes a contractual approach to the romantic gesture — who get’s what after the breach is determined by fault. And for the court to side with Bruce, the opinion basically amounts to “Yeah, I see why he broke up with your ass.” Here are a couple of gems:

According to Johnson, Settino berated him “over a spilled drink, how he ate oysters, and the time it took him to access messages on his cellphone. She would call him a ‘moron’ and treat him like a child. If something went wrong, he was to blame.”
Johnson interpreted the message as an invitation for sex and accused Settino of having an affair. Settino said the person she texted had been a friend for more than 40 years, and the relationship was strictly platonic. A week or two later, Johnson ended the engagement.

After an argument, Johnson looked at Settino’s text messages and found a text to a man Johnson didn’t know. It read, “My Bruce is going to be in Connecticut for three days. I need some playtime.” He also listened to a voicemail message by the same man who was upset because Settino did not see him often enough.

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In my mind, they had me at the beratement over a spilled drink. That’s right up there with dating someone who is rude to waiters — determining you don’t want to marry a person who lashes out over inconsequential things (there’s a whole adage about it) is tantamount to self-care. I’m damn sure not sharing my bank account and entrusting spousal privilege to someone who gets pissy over how long it takes to get to your messages. You’re looking for a partner-in-crime, not a micromanager.

Oh. The apparent cheating behind his back with a friend isn’t a good look for the long term either.

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Most states take a no-fault approach to post engagement break ups that returns the ring to the ring giver. The Appeals Court noted the lack of authority to switch over to the majority approach — maybe next time at a higher court.

For anyone keeping track, you can also chalk this down as one of the times that going pro se went well for the plaintiff. Congrats, Bruce!

Who’s At Fault When Engagement Ends? Appeals Court Considers Issue In Suit For Return Of $70K Ring [ABA Journal]

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Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s.  He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at cwi[email protected] and by tweet at @WritesForRent.

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Marriage, Proposals, Wedding Ring


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Originally posted on: https://abovethelaw.com/2023/09/the-70k-question-whose-ring-is-it-anyway/