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Sharp v. Kosmalski
New York Court of Appeals
40 N.Y.2d 119 (1976)
Rodney Sharp (plaintiff) was a 56-year-old dairy farmer with an eighth-grade education. After Sharp’s wife of 32 years died, Sharp developed a close relationship with Jean Kosmalski (defendant), who was 16 years younger than him. Kosmalski helped Sharp with disposing of his wife’s belongings and certain domestic tasks. Kosmalski was generally a frequent companion to Sharp. Eventually, Sharp proposed to Kosmalski, who declined the proposal. Despite the refusal, Sharp continued the relationship and showered Kosmalski with gifts, all of which were accepted. These circumstances led Sharp to believe that Kosmalski might change her mind about his marriage proposal. Kosmalski also had access to Sharp’s bank account and withdrew substantial sums of money. Later, Sharp made a will that named Kosmalski as the sole beneficiary and executed a deed naming Kosmalski as a joint owner of his farm. In 1971, Sharp conveyed his remaining interest to Kosmalski. At that time, Sharp asked his insurance agent, in Kosmalski’s presence, to change his farm liability policy to name himself as a life tenant and Kosmalski as the owner. In 1973, Kosmalski abruptly ordered Sharp to leave and took complete possession of the home and farm. Sharp was left with only $300 as his assets. Sharp sued Kosmalski, seeking an equitable remedy to restore his rights to the property. The trial court determined that Sharp’s transfer of his property was done without any promise or understanding of any kind. Therefore, the trial court dismissed the claim. Sharp appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Gabrielli, J.)
Dissent (Breitel, C.J.)
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