Can I be taken to small claims court for a birthday gift an ex gave me a year after we split?

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Can I be taken to small claims court for a birthday gift an ex gave me a year after we split?

I was with a woman for about 5 months and she bought me a dog that cost $2,000 dollars for my birthday and we split shortly after we got the dog. We have been apart now for over a year and now she wants to take me to small claims court for the cost of the dog.

Asked on April 27, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If something was a gift when given, the giver has no right to get it back; once a thing is gifted, the giver has no more interest in it. She may not after-the-fact decide that it was not a gift; all that matters is whether it was a gift when given. So legally, she should not be able to sue for the dog's value.

Practically, if she is going to claim in court that the dog was not a gift to you, but was her dog and you took it, the issue will come down to how persuasive and credible you each are, and what other evidence you can present--for example, do you have an email, letter, card, etc. from her saying that she was giving you the dog as a birthday gift? Are there other wtnesses who can testify that the dog was a gift? Etc.

The advantage would lie with you in a lawsuit, since the burden of proof is on the person suing (the plaintiff). If she sues you, she would have to prove that the dog was not a gift by a "preponderance of the evidence," or that it is more likely than not that the dog was not a gift.


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