Law Lessons from Robert R. Cole v. Kathleen B. Tokarz, Chan. Div., C-76-10, HARRY G. CARROLL, J.S.C., December 3, 2010:
Under New Jersey law an engagement ring is deemed a conditional gift so that the ring is returnable if the engagement is broken. Aronow v. Silver, 223 N.J. Super. 344, 347 (Ch.Div. 1987). However, Aronow was not decided in the context of an existing impediment to marriage where the parties were both aware of the impediment. The court in Aronow did, however, consider the issue of fault, stating:
The majority rule in this country concerning the disposition of engagement rings is a fault rule: the party who unjustifiably breaks the engagement loses the ring. The minority rule rejects fault. […] New Jersey courts have considered the question in only four published opinions, with split results. This court, not bound by any of those opinions, joins the minority.
Aronow v. Silver, 223 N.J. Super. 344, 347 (Ch. Div. 1987).
Other states have since followed this no fault rule, which has been referred to as the “modern rule.” Thorndike v. Demirs, 2007 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1944 (Conn. Super. Ct. July 26, 2007); Fowler v. Perry, 830 N.E.2d 97, 106 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005); Fierro v. Hoel, 465 N.W.2d 669, 672 (Iowa Ct. App. 1990); Heiman v. Parrish, 942 P.2d 631, 637 (Kan. 1997); Brown v. Thomas, 127 Wis. 2d 318, 329 (Wis. Ct. App. 1985); Lindh v. Surman, 742 A.2d 643 (Pa. 1999).
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