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.