Love Stinks

(This according to the J. Geils Band song of the same name.) “And may lead to litigation…”

A recent unreported Appellate Division decision involved parties that were romantically involved.

The plaintiff purchased property and built a house. Prior to the closing, the parties executed an agreement in which plaintiff promised to deed the house into both of their names as joint tenants with the right of survivorship and that defendant would have no financial obligations for the home. The parties executed and recorded the deed before they began living in the house.

Defendant ended the relationship and moved out a year later. The plaintiff sued to compel the defendant to convey her one half interest to him without any payment. Defendant counterclaimed for partition.

The trial court found that the deed expressly created a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship and that defendant had a one-half interest entitling her to equal distribution of the sale proceeds.

Plaintiff argued that the property was a joint venture and that the trial court should have conducted a plenary hearing to determine the equitable division of the sale proceeds.

The court disagreed and found the agreement did not preserve the joint venture or grant plaintiff the right to reimbursement, and that the deed expressly provided for a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship.

Interesting was that the court enforced the defendant’s rights under the deed although the agreement expressly stated that it was based upon defendant continuing to provide companionship to the plaintiff, and that the defendant had ended the relationship. The opinion does not address this apparent inconsistency.

Lastly, let it be noted that in the heat of the moment, the scrivener is oft forgotten.

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