In this age of “swiping” left or right, technology has done much to simplify the “dating scene.” Websites designed to bring people together for socializing, dating, or even marriage are springing up all the time. A case just handed down in Delaware County, PA shows what can happen when a person misrepresents themselves on one of these sites hoping to attract a mate.
Van der Veen, Hartshorn, and Levin partner Bruce L. Castor, Jr. defended Jennifer Tang who was fooled into believing the Plaintiff in the case, Robert Campbell was “divorced” (as he said in his profile he was) and accepted a marriage proposal from Campbell not knowing Campbell was married at the time. Ms. Tang gave and accepted jewelry and gifts to/from Campbell until she discovered he, in fact, could not go through with the marriage. Heartbroken while planning her dream wedding, Ms. Tang broke off her engagement to Campbell. At no time during the engagement period was Campbell free to marry her. So, what did Campbell do? He sued Ms. Tang demanding she return the gifts he had given her. In a first of its kind decision ever in Pennsylvania, after trial, Delaware County Common Please Court Judge John J.
Whelan ruled that Campbell was never able to enter into a contract to marry Ms. Tang, since Campbell was unable to fulfill his part of the contract bargain: hardly and oversight on his part, Campbell choose not to obtain a divorce decree because he liked the advantage of filing joint tax returns and of having his wife on his medical insurance policy. Judge Whelan ruled that all gifts given between the parties during the so-called engagement period held the same legal status as a birthday present, and that Campbell could not force Ms. Tang to return his gifts. While numerous states have addressed this issue and found in favor of persons similarly situated to Ms. Tang, Pennsylvania had not done so until now.
Because Campbell has appealed the decision to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Judge Whelan’s opinion has now become part of Pennsylvania’s common law until the Superior Court and/or the Supreme Court finally decides the issue. All these troubles would have been avoided had Campbell accurately put in his dating profile that his actual marital status was “married” or “seeking divorce.” Misrepresenting yourself on a dating website can cost a person a very expensive lesson.