Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Law.com discusses a New York trial court's rejection of constructive trust and unjust enrichment arguments to transfer any property interest from a New York ad-exec to his long-time girlfriend:
A prominent advertising executive's alleged promises to support his longtime girlfriend if they broke up are unenforceable because the couple never married, a Manhattan judge has ruled.
In declining to impose a constructive trust, Supreme Court Justice Ellen Gesmer ruled that such statements as "I will always take care of you" and "everything that we put in, we will enjoy together" do not constitute legally binding promises.
"Indeed, even if [the defendant] had made an explicit promise that, upon separation, [the plaintiff] would be entitled to 'equitable distribution' of their assets, it would be unenforceable, as it would be contrary to the long-standing law and policy in New York that unmarried partners are not entitled to the same property and financial rights upon termination of the relationship as married people," Justice Gesmer wrote.
"Unless and until the law imposes equitable distribution on unmarried couples, in New York, as least, the legal status of marriage remains vitally important to establishing the economic rights of members of a couple."
The plaintiff, Malin Ericson, filed suit in 2009 against Fabien Baron, the advertising executive and creative director best known for reinventing Burberry, producing racy ads for Calvin Klein and designing Madonna's "Sex" book. According to her complaint, Ericson began working for Baron's fledgling company, Baron & Baron, in 1993, and became romantically involved with Baron in 1994. They moved in together later that year, had a daughter in 1999 and remained a couple until 2007, though they never married.
Ericson alleged that, in addition to the assurances Baron made throughout their relationship, when they broke up, he promised he would treat the separation as if the couple had married.
When Baron purportedly failed to live up to that promise, Ericson filed the present petition seeking a constructive trust on his Mercer Street loft, which was purchased in 1997 for nearly $1.5 million, his Amagansett real estate, bought in 1999 for nearly $1.3 million, and three years of profits from Baron & Baron. The company, according to the decision, has gross annual revenues of some $20 million.
Ericson claimed she contributed to the couple's household and Baron's burgeoning business in reliance on his assurances.