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In order to show that a manual gift was made, there must exist strong and convincing proof that a donor had the intent to irrevocably divest himself of a thing and that delivery was made. The donee has the burden of proving donative intent, which is a factual issue. Important in proving a manual donation are the donor's outward acts, together with any admissible evidence of the relationship of the parties. The determination of the existence of donative intent is subject to the manifest error standard of appellate review.
Mark A. Cimino and Amy Capps were involved in a romantic relationship from approximately September 2005 until February 2009, when Capps discovered that Cimino had initiated relations with another woman. When the parties’ relationship ended, Cimino brought two lawsuits against Capps: one for the recovery of $9,836.65 incurred from charges on his Discover Card credit card by Capps (the "Discover Card suit") and the second for $22,645.44 in connection with a 2009 Toyota Corolla (the "vehicle suit"). In the vehicle suit, Cimino claimed he purchased the vehicle for Capps' personal use and enjoyment. Cimino also alleged that the funds expended by him on the Discover Card and the vehicle were always intended as loans, and Capps had agreed to reimburse him those amounts. Regarding the Discover Card suit, Capps responded that the parties had no verbal agreement regarding repayment of the credit card, and that the money spent on the credit card was meant as a personal gift. On the vehicle suit, she answered that the use of the vehicle was a gift intended for her personal use, and Cimino was not entitled to reimbursement. The trial court ruled that the vehicle was intended as a gift, while the charges to the Discovery Card were not because of the existence of checks written by Capps to Cimino for repayment of charges. Cimino appealed as to the dismissal of the vehicle suit.
Was the vehicle intended as a gift, thereby precluding Cimino from recovering from Capps?
The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding that Cimino had the requisite donative intent when he allowed his former girlfriend to drive a vehicle that he picked out and purchased solely for her benefit where the testimony showed that Cimino was concerned for his girlfriend's safety and wanted her to have a newer model car. According to the court, Cimino offered no proof that the girlfriend made payments on the car, other than his self-serving testimony. The trial court's finding was more evident when contrasted with a conclusion made about a credit card debt where physical evidence existed showing that the girlfriend made some attempt to repay Cimino for that debt.