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Promise to Pay After Breakup Declared Invalid, Prevailing Party Awarded Attorneys’ Fees

Recently, acting Rockland County Supreme Court Justice Victor Alfieri Jr. held that Youcheng Wu’s promise to pay his estranged lover $500,000 after the relationship ended was not a binding contract. The woman must now pay Wu’s attorney’s fees and her lawyer must pay a $2,500 sanction for pursuing a frivolous claim.

In August 2012, Wu had his friend draft a letter to the woman apologizing to her for “hurting her,” and promised to pay her $500,000 in the future. Wu made two payments totaling $47,020 in August and September 2012, but brought an action in March 2013 for a judgment declaring the letter “unenforceable and void as a matter of law.”

Wu was sent a letter by the woman’s attorney, David Lira of Giuttari & Mertz, stating that “Wu’s promise was legally binding and threatening legal action if he did not comply with its terms.” The Judge correctly found the letter “frivolous” under 22 NYCRR § 130-1.1(a) since it was “completely without merit and cannot be supported by a reasonable argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.”

Judge Alfieri also said, “Although the August 2012 letter is not an express agreement to marry or to encourage a divorce, it does involve the institution of marriage and the well-being of the familiar relationship of Plaintiff and his wife to the extent that this Court finds is against public policy.” As such, the court had no choice but to find the letter null and void.

Since Wu commenced legal action in response to the letter issued by Lira, the court held that Wu should be “reimbursed for actual expenses reasonably incurred and reasonable attorney’s fees expended resulting from defendant’s attorney’s frivolous conduct.” Lira was ordered to pay the $2,500 sanction to the Lawyers Fund for Client Protection.

The nature of the relationship between Wu and the woman was unclear, and the judge noted as much. “The nature of the relationship is disputed by the parties but it is clear the parties were ‘involved’ to a certain extent,” said Judge Alfieri.

Wu is not looking to be reimbursed for the two payments he made, and is instead simply trying to put this ordeal behind him.

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