JON D. WALTON, Plaintiff,
JENNIFER D. SNOW, Defendant.
Submitted: January 28, 2014
Decided: February 28, 2014
Richard L. Abbott, Esquire Abbott Law Firm Attorney for Plaintiff
Jennifer Snow Self-represented Defendant
DECISION AFTER TRIAL
The Honorable Sheldon K. Rennie, Judge
Plaintiff Jon D. Walton ("Walton") brought this action to recover the value of an engagement ring given to Jennifer D. Snow ("Snow") when the couple was engaged to be married. Trial took place on January 28, 2014. The Court heard testimony from three witnesses,  and documentary evidence was submitted by both parties. At the conclusion of trial, the Court reserved decision. This is the Court's Final Decision After Trial.
On March 7, 2013, Walton filed this conversion action against Snow, seeking $27, 000.00 as the fair market value for the engagement ring he gave to Snow. On May 16, 2013, Snow filed an answer and counterclaim, seeking to recover monetary damages and replevin for a number of alleged offenses.
Trial was held on January 28, 2014. In opening argument, counsel for Walton stated that Walton sought the value of the ring because the ring was not available. Counsel stated that Snow is a resident of Pennsylvania, which caused Walton concerns about pursuing a replevin action. During trial, Snow proceeded on her counterclaim only as to: damages for the repair of her bed; damages for unpaid rent; recovery of diamond earrings; and damages for interest and penalties incurred in liquidating her 401k.
It is Walton's position that, although he called off the wedding, Snow is responsible for the ending of the engagement. Walton contends that, at the very least, the engagement was ended due to mutual cause and, as such, he should be awarded the fair market value of the engagement ring under his conversion claim. Walton relies on two decisions of this Court in support of his position that, where the engagement is mutually ended, the ring must be returned to the donee. It is Snow's position that she did not end the engagement and she did not cause the engagement to end.
Walton and Snow met one Harmony.com in 2011. Walton testified that the couple dated until early 2012 when "some confrontational situations" caused the relationship to end. However, the couple reconciled and resumed the relationship until May 2012, when the couple again parted ways (the "May Breakup").
Walton attributed the May Breakup to Snow's disposition. He testified to specific instances where Snow exhibited unfavorable behavior. In one example, the couple was in New York City and Walton decided to purchase a new bed for his daughter who lived in the city. Snow referred to the gift as "exorbitant" (the "Mattress Incident"). The second occurrence took place the same weekend, when Walton presented Snow with a croissant. Walton testified that Snow "freaked out" and became angry because of her weight concerns (the "Croissant Incident"). Snow testified that, at the time, she was following a gluten-free diet, and was thus upset by Walton's insensitivity in presenting her with a wheat-based pastry.
Following the May Breakup, the couple remained uncoupled for a few months. During the break, Snow informed Walton that she had rejoined the church, she was going to the gym daily, and she was even reading a book written by Deepak Chopra. Walton testified that Snow was "regaining control of herself." Sometime during the summer of 2012, Snow, who had just started a new job, called Walton, a financial advisor, for guidance on her 401k, Soon thereafter, the two met for coffee, and enjoyed a nice evening together.
After the successful coffee date, Walton took time off from work to visit Snow while she was working in the Washington D.C. area. Walton testified that he spent a few days with Snow and had a "nice time."
In August 2012, Walton had to travel to New York City for work, and he invited Snow to visit him. She obliged. On August 12, 2012, Walton and Snow, accompanied by Walton's dog, went on a rowboat excursion on the Hudson River. Walton testified that Snow looked "angelic" and "happy." Walton testified that he told Snow that they should get married, and the couple agreed to do so.
Walton turned to his childhood friend and Ohio-based jeweler, Jim Jensen ("Jensen"), to purchase the engagement rings. The couple decided that they would design the rings themselves, and they elected to depart from traditional styles by using black diamonds. Walton told Jim he wanted a two-karat black diamond for Snow's ring. In September, Jensen notified Walton that he found a black diamond which matched Walton's criteria. Jensen sold Walton the diamond at the wholesale price of $15, 000.00. The ring in its entirety bore a price tag of $19, 800. At some point, Jensen sent the ring to Snow to try on, but the ring did not fit. The couple decided that they would take the ring to Jensen in Ohio for resizing, at which point Snow could also meet Walton's father.
On direct examination, Walton testified that the couple had dual residence. Snow stayed with Walton most of the time (the "Delaware Home"), but she remained a resident of Pennsylvania, and still had an apartment in Wayne, Pennsylvania.
In the meantime, according to Walton. Snow's "commitment to renewal" began to unravel. Walton testified that there were instances that made him "take great pause" in whether they should marry. According to Walton, on one occasion, he made dinner for Snow, but Snow "lost it" because the meal was prepared with frozen eggplant instead of fresh eggplant (the "Eggplant Incident"). Snow testified that she and Walton had been following a strict diet program, and ...