After two trips to the New Hampshire Supreme Court and two bench trials
in Superior Court, Concord office attorneys Steve Gordon and Ben Siracusa
Hillman, assisted by Jillian Keller, Jessica Bellemore, and Beth Stevens,
prevailed on behalf of longtime firm client Steve Cohen. The case involved
the question of whether Cohen’s ex-stepson-in-law, John Raymond,
was obligated to repay $250,000 that Cohen had transferred to him. Cohen
argued that the $250,000 was transferred to Raymond so that he and Raymond
could start a business together, and that once that effort was permanently
frustrated by divorce proceedings between Cohen’s stepdaughter and
Raymond, the money was due back to Cohen. Raymond argued that the transfer
was an outright gift and that he was not obligated to repay it.
Following a bench trial, the Superior Court initially sided with Cohen,
holding that the transfer was a conditional gift, the condition had not
been fulfilled, and that Cohen was entitled to restitution. Upon reconsideration,
the Superior Court held a second bench trial and then ruled in favor of
Raymond, holding that because the transfer was to a family member, it
was presumed to be an outright gift, and Cohen had not overcome the presumption.
Cohen appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed, holding that no gift presumption
applies to a transfer to a stepchild-in-law, and remanding for further
consideration absent the presumption. On remand, the Superior Court sided
with Cohen, this time holding that the transfer was an unconditional gift
but that Cohen was nevertheless entitled to restitution because the gift,
while unconditional, was induced by Raymond’s representation that
the parties would go into business together. Regardless of whether that
representation was innocent at the time it was made, the Court reasoned,
it would be unjust to allow Raymond to benefit from a broken promise.
Raymond appealed, and the Supreme Court, in a summary order, affirmed
the Superior Court’s decision. Click
here to view the order.