4th DCA (Melanie Bell)
Tammy Lyn Bobyack doesn’t want to give back the 6.71-carat diamond engagement ring she received from her ex-fiance, and the Fourth District Court of Appeal isn’t sure she should have to.
The appellate court sent the ring dispute back to Palm Beach Circuit Judge Sandra McSorley with instructions to listen to what Bobyack has to say.
“We simply must determine whether a genuine issue of material fact existed,” District Judge Melanie May wrote for the unanimous panel. “The answer to that question is yes.”
Bobyack said the relationship ran from November 2005 to March 2009. They lived together with her three children for awhile, but she moved out in June 2008 because she insisted her significant other, Andrew J. Larkin, wouldn’t get treatment for a substance abuse problem.
They reconciled months later, but Bobyack said she wouldn’t marry him unless he entered treatment. That same month, he gave her the engagement ring as a Christmas gift.
By March, however, they were arguing about Larkin’s unwillingness to enter treatment. She said he insisted he didn’t have a problem.
“When Tammy forced the issue, he told her he no longer wanted to marry her,” May noted.
The argument got so heated, Bobyack called police and Larkin was arrested. The following month, he sued for return of the ring.
McSorley said it didn’t matter who broke the engagement. Since the marriage didn’t take place, Larkin was entitled to the ring.
May’s opinion states the dismissal order ignored the consideration of evidence in a classic “he said, she said” disagreement. Who broke the engagement?
The trial court said it didn’t matter who broke it off.
“That’s not the law in Florida,” said Bobyack’s attorney, L. Louis Mrachek of Page, Mrachek, Fitzgerald, Rose, Konopka & Dow in West Palm Beach. “In Florida, the person who breaks off engagement has no right to the ring.”
Mrachek added he was delighted with the appellate ruling.
Joel Weissman, Larkin’s West Palm Beach attorney, said the opinion abrogated substantive law.
“There’s a caveat to a simplistic proposal. If conditions exist to a simplistic proposal, the proposal may have consequences,” he said.