Suing Ex Girlfriend for the Return of Gifts

In Ferreira v. Gray, Cary, Ware & Freidenrich (2001) 87 Cal.App.4th 409, the plaintiff sued his former girlfriend and two of her family members for the return of gifts he had given her during their relationship. The girlfriend and her mother cross-complained, alleging multiple torts. After obtaining a favorable jury verdict and ensuing judgment on his complaint (and a predominantly favorable verdict on the cross-complaint), Ferreira settled the case with the defendants. The parties agreed that judgment would be entered for Ferreira on one of the cross-claims and otherwise in accordance with the verdict, but that Ferreira would accept $ 1 from each of the defendants in lieu of payment of the damages awarded by the jury. The defendants agreed not to pursue an appeal of the judgment. In accordance with this agreement, an amended judgment was entered. Eight months after acknowledging satisfaction of the judgment, Ferreira sued the defendants' attorneys for malicious prosecution. The trial court, finding no favorable termination, granted the attorneys' motion for summary judgment, and the Fourth District, Division One, affirmed. The appellate court rejected Ferreira's claim that the underlying jury verdict should determine the issue of favorable termination; the litigation did not end with a judgment based on that verdict, but was resolved--i.e., terminated--by the subsequent settlement. "Thus, while arguably Ferreira may have received a favorable determination at one point in the proceeding ... the litigation terminated as a result of a negotiated settlement in which both sides gave up something of value to resolve the matter. This termination of the litigation did not reflect the merits of the underlying action, but rather, the compromise between the parties, and therefore, as a matter of law, there was not a favorable termination for purposes of a malicious prosecution action." (Ferreira, supra, 87 Cal.App.4th at p. 413.)