A woman who claimed that her male friend bought her a $27,000 home at auction out of the goodness of his heart – and for companionship – has been ordered to pay back the money along with an additional $15,000 in damages for malicious prosecution.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals rejected Mary Ivory’s argument that her former companion Baidya Chatterjee had failed to establish that she committed fraud by duping him into transferring the property to her.
While the deal wasn’t in writing (of course it wasn’t), the three-judge appellate panel affirmed the trial judge’s ruling that fraud had occurred because Ivory had promised to repay Chatterjee but never intended to carry out the pledge.
Judge Mark Davis also found that Chatterjee had reason to believe Ivory’s “false representation” as the evidence showed that he and Ivory had a “close personal relationship” that involved a “significant degree of trust.”
In her pro se brief, Ivory wrote that Chatterjee pressured her into accepting the house, which had been in her family, and refused her offer to repay the debt, saying, among other things: “I am Hindu, I believe in reincarnation. You did something good for me in another life and I have to pay you back!”
Ivory alleged that Chatterjee later told her that if she was intent on repaying him she could buy him some cotton lounging pants, doormats, kneepads and do “some sewing and mending of his tattered flags.”
“Then he mentioned needing companionship, and that he hated to cook,” she wrote. “I was happy to do these things for him and he was a perfect gentleman for a while.”
But after he transferred the deed, Chatterjee “requested intimacy,” Ivory alleged. She wrote that she initially declined, but later “gave in to his desires and were constant companions until he became very controlling and demanding.”
When their relationship ended, Chatterjee began demanding that Ivory give him $27,000, she alleged. She also wrote that he began harassing her. For instance, she said that one night someone drove up to her gate, honked the horn and left.
“The next morning, I saw vultures flying over and landing in the driveway,” she wrote in her brief. “When I went out to have a look, I saw a large dead black cat lying in the driveway. There was no blood or broken bones that I could see, but it was very disturbing. I was hoping that the vultures would devour it, as I did not want to touch it.”
She alleged that Chatterjee later appeared in his car outside her house. She said he picked up the cat corpse, pointed it at her fence and then placed the carcass in his car and drove away.
She provided a similar count in a request for a restraining order against Chatterjee, though she wrote that the dead cat was gray. A copy of the request in the court file includes handwritten notes, presumably from Chatterjee, in which he refutes her accusations.
A note responding to the dead cat allegation states: “Why would anybody [put a] dead animal inside a car.”
Ivory also filed a domestic violence complaint against Chatterjee, which resulted in deputies seizing his firearms. The complaint was later dismissed and Chatterjee got his guns back. But then Ivory accused Chatterjee of stealing a chain and lock from her, which resulted in a misdemeanor criminal summons. He was found not guilty following a bench trial.
Chatterjee did not file a brief with the Court of Appeals. While the court affirmed his damages awards, it reversed the trial judge’s award of $4,000 in attorney’s fees. The panel found no basis under state law for a fees award on a common law fraud claim.
An attempt to speak with Chatterjee’s trial lawyer, James Livermon Jr. of Hux & Livermon in Enfield, was unsuccessful.
The 11-page decision is Chatterjee v. Ivory (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-194-16). A digest of the opinion is available at nclawyersweekly.com.
Follow Phillip Bantz on Twitter @NCLWBantz