The man filed a replevin action against his former fiance for return of a diamond engagement ring. Attached to the complaint was a form entitled “Insurance Replacement Appraisal,” from a jeweler. The estimated value of the rig was $100,000. A picture of the ring was included.

The man argued that an engagement ring is a gift in contemplation of marriage. It is a gift conditional on the subsequent marriage. He argued that, under well-established Illinois precedent, the party who fails to perform the condition has no right to the property. The motion argued that he intended to marry the woman. He argued that the woman failed to perform (the marriage was called off). So, he argues that he has a superior interest in the ring.

The man had broken off the engagement. He offered to pay the woman’s moving expenses in exchange for the return of the ring. The Trial Court ruled against the man getting the ring back. He appealed.

The Appellate Court agreed with the Trial Court. The man had argued that the question is “whether or not the marriage occurred. Not why it did not occur or because of whom.”

The woman had argued that there was no genuine issue of material fact. The man had admitted in his verified complaint that he ended the engagement. And that he was the one “who failed to perform on the condition of the gift.”

The woman sold the ring for $36,000. The next month, the man had filed his replevin suit. It is undisputed that the woman no longer had the ring. Replevin counts on the other party having possession of the property. The woman did not have possession any longer.

Illinois had previously permitted suits for the actual damages sustained as the result of a broken engagement. Or due to “alienation of affection”. However, as of January 1, 2016, the Illinois legislature eliminated causes of action for a breach of promise to marry and for alienation of affection.

By eliminating the “heart-balm statutes”, the Illinois legislature chose to leave parties after a nonmarital break-up in the position that they decided to place themselves, in light of the risks they chose to take.

Liceaga v. Baez, 2019 IL App (1st) 181170 (March 29, 2019).

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