Constructive Trust Properly Imposed on Real Property, Criteria Explained
The Second Department determined the defendant (Chen) was entitled to impose a constructive trust on real property for which she contributed money. The court explained the criteria:
“Generally, a constructive trust may be imposed when property has been acquired in such circumstances that the holder of the legal title may not in good conscience retain the beneficial interest'” … . “The elements of a constructive trust are (1) a fiduciary or confidential relationship; (2) an express or implied promise; (3) a transfer in reliance on the promise; and (4) unjust enrichment” … . While these factors are useful in many cases, the constructive trust doctrine is not rigidly limited … . Thus, although the elements of a constructive trust must be proved by clear and convincing evidence …, “[t]he constructive trust doctrine is given broad scope to respond to all human implications of a transaction in order to give expression to the conscience of equity and to satisfy the demands of justice” … .
Here, the Supreme Court properly awarded judgment in favor of the defendant Al Ming Chen on her counterclaim to impose a constructive trust on the subject real property. Contrary to the plaintiff’s contention, Chen offered evidence satisfying the elements generally needed for the imposition of a constructive trust. The plaintiff’s contention that Chen never had any interest in the subject property, and therefore is not entitled to the imposition of a constructive trust, is without merit. Chen showed that she contributed money for the purchase of the subject property and for paying down the mortgage in reliance on an implied promise by the plaintiff that she shared an interest in the property … . Moreover, Chen demonstrated that a constructive trust is necessary in this case to satisfy the demands of justice … . Liu v Chen, 2015 NY Slip Op 08152, 2nd Dept 11-12-15