Category Archives: Remedies

[De]Constructive Trust: Romance in Ruins

This originally appeared on the SGR Blog.

First year law school students often take a course about equitable remedies, one of which is the imposition by  the Court of a “constructive trust”. The remedy is almost always intensely fact  sensitive because the disputes often  arise out personal relationships and undocumented special  circumstances without the formalities of a contract. A recent example follows:

From 2000 until 2017, Michael Baker and Anna Harrison were in a long-term romantic relationship. During their relationship, they ran a timber harvesting business for which various equipment was purchased. By deed dated March 7, 2017, a 4.66-acre parcel of undeveloped land on State Route 9 in the Town of Chester, Warren County, was transferred by its owner to Harrison for $3,500. The deed was not recorded.

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Part I: “Scrivener’s Error”: Historical Antecedents, Development and State of the Law

Victor M. Metsch is a Senior Litigation/ADR Counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.  He can be reached at  He maintains a website at and can be found on Twitter @LegalVictor1.   

The equitable remedy of reformation to correct a “scrivener’s error” in a contract, agreement or understanding appears to be as old as the common law itself.   General principles of New York law in this area of the law  were formulated in the mid to late nineteenth century (Part I); nuanced and applied to more complicated transactions in the twentieth (Part II); and  continue to be followed and applied in the current millennium (Part III). 

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