Sadly, it seems to be all too common for legal disputes to arise over who gets the engagement ring if a wedding is called off. But not many of those disputes involve a ring worth close to half a million dollars, or a former sister-in-law of the President.
On February 11, Gerald Tsai sued Sharon Bush to recover either the eleven-carat engagement ring he gave her or the $434,000 he says it is worth now. (He bought it for a paltry $243,040, but she seems to have accepted anyway.) Tsai gave Bush the ring in December 2006, but their plans to be married on Valentine’s Day 2007 did not survive his refusal to sign a prenuptial agreement. She kept the ring.
According to the report, New York’s Civil Rights Law provides that property must be returned if the "sole consideration" for its transfer was a "contemplated marriage" that didn’t occur. A 1968 case directly on point (except that the ring cost $2,450) held in favor of the donor.
But Bush’s attorney, Raoul Felder, is already on the offensive. "We will vigorously defend this case," he said. That statement was discounted by some, or at least by me, on the grounds that it’s what you’d expect him to say. If an attorney ever makes a public statement saying something like, "We will half-heartedly defend this case while hoping for a settlement," then I will pay attention. Felder’s argument will apparently be that Tsai gave Bush the ring as a Christmas present, not because they planned to get married two months later, and so the statute doesn’t apply because the ring was not "in sole consideration" of a contemplated marriage.
Felder was also upset that hard-hearted Tsai had sued just three days before Valentine’s Day. "Valentine’s Day is a day you give gifts to your sweetheart," Felder said. "It’s not the day you demand Christmas presents back." Well, it could be a day you demand Christmas presents back. In this case, it might also have been the day the statute of limitations would have expired, but that could be a coincidence. And speaking of days not to do things, I guess if this argument succeeds then nobody will be able to propose at any time during the Christmas shopping season, unless he is willing to take the risk of a later "Christmas-present" defense.
Sharon Bush has been scorned at least once before, by her former husband and presidential brother Neil Bush, who, after 23 years of marriage, broke up with her by e-mail.