September 20, 2016

The Honorable John H. Rouse of the Supreme Court, Suffolk County has dismissed a purchaser’s action to recover a $1,000,000 downpayment in Matrix Investment Group LLC v. Two Trees Farm Development LLC.  The plaintiff had deposited the downpayment toward the purchase of property in Bridgehampton, but in exchange for extensions of the closing date, the plaintiff agreed to release the downpayment from escrow and make it “nonrefundable.”  After the plaintiff’s principal died, it refused to close and sought a refund anyway, arguing that defendant’s retention of the downpayment would constitute “unjust enrichment” and that the death of the plaintiff’s principal rendered the transaction impossible to perform.  Justice Rouse disagreed, explaining that New York law routinely enforces a seller’s retention of a downpayment as liquidated damages and that even if the purchaser’s principal was a “key man” to its operations, the “Plaintiff did not bargain for the Defendant to be the insurer of the risks that might attend his death.”