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Bonina v. Sheppard

Massachusetts Appeals Court
78 N.E.3d 128 (2017)


Facts

Contractor Stephen Bonina (plaintiff) and Jane Sheppard (defendant) lived together, but never married. They bought a house in Sheppard’s name that needed significant repairs. Over the next 16 years, Bonina contributed $156,913.07 in costs plus his own labor improving and making additions and paid half the mortgage payments. When the couple split up, Bonina sued Sheppard to recover restitution, arguing his contributions unjustly enriched her. Bonina presented evidence substantiating everything he spent on permanent improvements, maintenance and repairs, and the mortgage but did not try to recover anything for the substantial amounts of labor he personally expended working on the house. The trial court found that Bonina never intended his contributions as gifts to Sheppard. Rather, the court found that Bonina’s mortgage payments covered the benefit of Bonina’s living in the home, and that Bonina had received the benefits of the maintenance and repairs. Neither party showed how much the improvements had increased the value of the home. As a result, the court awarded Bonina restitution of $156,913.07, representing the amount he spent on permanent improvements. Sheppard appealed, arguing Bonina was not entitled to restitution, or in the alternative, that the court should have measured restitution as the amount that the improvements increased the home’s value instead of costs.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kafker, C.J.)

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