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Text Message Breakup Costs Man $53K Engagement Ring

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

A man who broke up with his ex-fiancee by text message has lost his legal claim over a $53,000 engagement ring that he wanted back.

A New York judge ruled that Louis J. Billittier Jr., 55, couldn't get the expensive ring back from his former would-be-wife because of what he said to her during the text-message breakup, reports The Buffalo News.

Did a loose-lipped text crush Billittier's engagement ring case?

'Enough for a Down Payment on a House'

Even "Today" show co-hosts Kathie Lee and Hoda know that you can't break up via text message. But little did Billittier expect that doing so would be so costly.

In 2012, after texting his then-fiancee Christa M. Clark that their engagement was over, Billittier followed up by texting: "Plus you get a $50,000 parting ring. Enough for a down payment on a house."

That may have been the wrong choice of words because based on the text message, the judge considered the 2.97-carat diamond ring a gift, reports the News.

While there are no laws in New York about how to break up engagements (even when it's done via text message), there are legal precedents about who gets an engagement ring. In many states, a wedding ring is seen as a sort of conditional gift, with a broken engagement warranting the return of the ring to the person who gave it.

Because the not-so-smooth Billittier texted his intent to let Clark keep the ring despite the engagement ending, the judge considered it a gift outside of the promise of marriage. And once a gift is given without strings, there are no takesies-backsies.

Ring Around the Lawsuit

Although it seems like karmic justice for Clark to keep her expensive ring, the engagement ring doesn't always go to the party who was "wronged."

If an ex-fiance(e) decides to sue to keep or retrieve an engagement ring, courts may examine:

  • Whether the ring was a gift,
  • Whether that gift was conditioned upon getting married,
  • Which party caused the broken engagement, and
  • Whether the ring is considered compensation.

Engagement rings may also be seen as consideration for a wedding contract. That isn't terribly romantic, but it does make the legal outcome clearer.

For Billittier, his lawyer should have advised him against rubbing text-salt in his ex-fiancee's wound about her engagement ring. Because now it's hers to keep.

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