Lawyer Claims Condition Inherent in Marriage Proposal Entitles Him to Get Ring Back

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Attorney William Kaper of Barrington, Illinois, is suing his ex-wife in hopes of getting back a 5-carat, $98,000 diamond ring that he offered her as part of a proposal that he hoped would result in their second marriage.  Kaper and his ex-wife, Dr. Mary Ann Rosanova-Kaper, had been married for 25 years and then divorced for 10, although the ex-wife apparently remained hyphenated for the sake of their children.  Rosanova-Kaper accepted the re-proposal when it was made in 1999, but the re-marriage never actually took place before (according to the lawsuit) she ended their relationship in 2002.

Having apparently tried for four years to get the ring back without success, Kaper filed suit this week in Cook County Circuit Court.  The lawsuit alleges that his proposal included a condition subsequent, namely that Rosanova-Kaper would give back the ring should her oral acceptance of the marriage offer not ultimately become fully and legally binding.  She does not seem to recall any such condition being uttered at the time, which I guess would have gone something like this:

Darling, I remember all our happy times together and am sorry that we have been apart.  I love you deeply and hope you will marry me again.  Please say yes, with the understanding that acceptance of this offer constitutes agreement to the implied condition subsequent of a formalized marriage and that the non-occurrence of such condition shall result in forfeiture of any gifts made concurrently with this proposal, and make me the happiest man in the world.

But she doesn’t remember it that way.  Kaper says he paid $70,000 for the ring, but that it is now worth at least $98,000.

The Sun-Times contacted law professors at Illinois schools for comment.  They advise that Kaper actually has a good chance to get the ring back, as courts tend to look to whether a marriage actually took place and, if not, who broke up the engagement.  In divorce proceedings, rings are typically construed as gifts that need not be returned, but if no marriage ever took place, then the engagement ring may be treated as a "conditional gift in contemplation of marriage."  In most cases, the experts said, the conditional giftor does not go after the ring because it could well cost more in legal fees to get it back than it is worth.  But here, where the rock may be worth six figures and the giftor can represent himself (presumably), things seem to be different.

Link: Chicago Sun-Times