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Currie v. Jane

Supreme Court of Vermont

September 5, 2014

Janet K. Currie
v.
Paul C. Jané

Motion for Reargument Denied September 30, 2014

Editorial Note:

This Opinion is subject to motion for reargument or formal revision before publication. See V.R.A.P. 40

On Appeal from Superior Court, Addison Unit, Civil Division. Helen M. Toor, J.

Michelle A. Kenny of Tepper Dardeck Levins & Gatos, LLP, Rutland, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Benjamin H. Deppman and Lesley B. Deppman of Deppman & Foley, P.C., Middlebury, for Defendant-Appellee.

Present: Reiber, C.J., Dooley, Skoglund, Robinson and Crawford, JJ.[1]

OPINION

Page 877

Robinson, J.

[¶1] Plaintiff challenges a partition order reflecting the trial court's conclusion that defendant had an 81.7% interest in the home that plaintiff and defendant purchased together, and applying various setoffs for contributions to the maintenance of the home after the parties purchased it. We affirm.

[¶2] In response to plaintiff's action for partition of jointly owned property, filed in February 2010 in the Addison superior court, the trial court found the following facts. The parties met in 2002 or 2003 and had a romantic relationship. In August 2007, the pair bought a house in Orwell. Prior to the purchase, plaintiff had been renting an apartment within the house from the owners of the property, the Tricketts. After the sale, defendant moved in with plaintiff.

[¶3] The parties bought the house for $245,000. Defendant's mother contributed $200,000, defendant paid about $4,300 in closing costs, and the Tricketts financed a $45,000 private mortgage to the parties. Defendant's mother did not ask for a promissory note, and her contribution was a gift rather than a loan. In particular, the contribution was intended as a gift to defendant, not to plaintiff. Although both parties signed the promissory note to the

Page 878

Tricketts, plaintiff took responsibility for making those payments, and was supposed to pay the balloon payment on the mortgage in August of 2010. The property was titled to the parties as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.

[¶4] Sometime after the closing, plaintiff signed an indemnification agreement that expressly acknowledged that defendant paid $200,000 plus the closing costs, that plaintiff was solely responsible for the $45,000 mortgage debt, and that plaintiff would indemnify defendant for any default on that debt.

[¶5] Plaintiff testified that she always believed that each party had a fifty percent interest in the property, while defendant testified that his understanding was that he had an interest in the property commensurate with his $200,000 contribution, and plaintiff had an interest commensurate with her $45,000 contribution. The attorney who conducted the closing for the parties corroborated defendant's testimony. The trial court expressly rejected plaintiff's testimony and concluded that ...


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