Jilted Bride Can Keep Engagement Ring, Court Rules

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engagement ringJilted bride Winnie Su will keep her $15,500 diamond engagement ring in a decision likely to rock the established order.

In a controversial decision published on Caselaw NSW as Toh v Su [2017] NSWLC 10, the magistrate has brushed aside what he believes were archaic marriage laws that had not changed for more than 90 years to ensure she will keep her sparkler. This case had striking similarities to a case in the ACT last year published as Omari v Yassine (Civil Dispute) [2016] ACAT 112.

The court heard the couple met through a mutual friend in 2015. By October that year they had opened joint bank accounts and visited a jewellery store to buy a $15,500 engagement ring and two wedding bands totalling $1300.

He proposed in December and the pair “re-enacted the scene for a photographer”, Magistrate Rodney Brender said.

Days later, the couple left Australia on a trip to China and Edwin Shien Bing Toh gave his fiancée Winnie Chu Ling Su both wedding bands “so that she could show them to her parents”.
But the course of true love ended abruptly on March 5, 2016, when Mr Toh called off the engagement after three months.

“Many gifts are given in happy times and with optimism. Sometimes that optimism is borne out, sometimes it isn’t. Why would the law treat a gift of a ring between same sex couples as different? Or between couples who give a ring in anticipation of a de facto relationship starting and prospering?” the magistrate said.

At a meeting attended by his former fiancée and a friend, Mr Toh said “everything that belongs to each party will be returned to each party”, and Ms Su agreed.

She demanded back all the gifts she had given him, including the shoes on his feet, which he immediately removed and handed over, Downing Centre Local Court heard.

But Ms Su refused to hand back the engagement ring or the two wedding rings, one costing $800 for her and one costing $500 for him, which her former fiance had bought.

So Mr Toh took his would-be bride to court to get them back.

But magistrate Rodney Brender ruled the engagement ring was an unconditional gift.

Mr Brender examined English and Australian cases and concluded that because it is no longer possible to sue for breach of a promise to marry, “the gift of an engagement ring should be seen as unconditional”.

He slammed as outdated a 1926 court precedent that stated if the bride broke off the engagement, she had to return the ring but if it was the fault of the groom, she could keep it.

That rule was imposed as recently as in a 2007 case when a women threw her $15,250 diamond ring in the garbage after an engagement lasted just 10 days, the magistrate said.

“A gift of an engagement ring should now be seen like other gifts as given absolutely,” he said.

“Many gifts are given in happy times and with optimism. Sometimes that optimism is borne out, sometimes it isn’t.”

He also said Mr Toh could have kept the shoes as they were a gift.

“I think those words (take off the shoes) were said in a heightened emotional state by a woman very upset at having her engagement broken off,” Mr Brender said.

“He gave them back to her because she asked him to.

“He wanted her out of his life and was in conflict avoidance at the time.

“He did not want to see her again.”

The court heard the couple decided to get married a few months after they met in 2015.

They were engaged in the December and he showered her with a range of lavish gifts, including a diamond necklace, a Louis Vuitton handbag, a Longines watch and a Samsonite suitcase, worth about $5000.

But on March 5, 2016, Mr Toh called the marriage off.

Mr Brender found that while Ms Su could keep the engagement ring, she had to return the other two rings because they remained Mr Toh’s property­.

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Categories: Family Gifts, Gift in anticipation of marriage, Gifted Property, Omari v Yassine (Civil Dispute) [2016] ACAT 112, Toh v Su [2017] NSWLC 10
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