Summary of Lindh v. Surman
F: Plaintiff (appellee) donor presented defendant (appellant) donee with an engagement ring, and then subsequently terminated the engagement. Appellant returned the ring. The couple later reconciled and appellee again proposed marriage, presented the ring, and afterward terminated the engagement. Appellant refused to return the ring, and appellee commenced an action for its recovery.
I: What is the condition of the gift, acceptance of the engagement of the marriage itself?
H: The engagement ring is always given subject to the implied condition that if the marriage does not take place the gift shall be returned.
I: Whether fault is relevant to determining return of the ring.
H: The donor is entitled to return of the engagement ring even if the donor broke the engagement
- Under a fault-based analysis, return of the ring depends on an assessment of who broke the engagement, which necessarily entails a determination of why that person broke the engagement.
- A no-fault approach, however, involves no investigation into the motives or reasons for the cessation of the engagement and requires the return of the engagement ring simply upon the nonoccurrence of the marriage.
- Court adopted a no-fault principle
- “We decline to adopt this modified no-fault position, and hold that the donor is entitled to return of the ring even if the donor broke the engagement. We believe that the benefits from the certainty of our rule outweigh its negatives, and that a strict no-fault approach is less flawed than a fault-based theory or modified no-fault position."