029: Unlucky in Love

Stella Case No. 029, Originally Published: 8 January 2003

Joseph Bisignano, 66, of Des Moines, Iowa, spent two years — and, he says, more than $330,000 — in an attempt to convince Mary Toon, 54, to become his fourth wife. He says she wanted a formal engagement party, so he bought her a designer wedding dress and a $75,000 engagement ring.

unlucky love 300x158 - 029: Unlucky in Love
Nah, it’s not the ring, just a fancy ring.

Alas, Toon threw him over …shortly after he bought her a $4,000 fur coat. In response, Bisignano has sued Toon, alleging fraud, breach of contract and “unjust enrichment.” The suit demands the return of $129,000 worth of gifts, plus $201,259 cash for loans and purchases Bisignano made for her.

Toon’s lawyer says the “mere allegations” won’t stand up in court, and that there was no “relationship as he described it.” That’s one way to avoid a fourth painful divorce: get it over with early!


  • “West Des Moines Man Sues to Regain Money He Spent on Woman,” Des Moines Register, 6 January 2003

Case Status

According to MoreLaw, a legal services marketing and publishing company, Bisignano recovered $175,000, but apparently not the engagement ring. The trial was held in the Circuit Court in Polk County, Iowa.

My 2020 Thoughts on the Case

It’s a tricky case, but if there was no “relationship as he described it,” as her lawyer said, but there were merely some sort of acquaintances, then pretty much everything becomes a loan, eh? Seems to be an unlikely defense …and it doesn’t seem like it worked all that well. But well enough if he didn’t recover the “more than $330,000” he said he spent.

Bisignano, an obviously successful stockbroker with three prior wives, perhaps “should have been” more savvy in both finance and love, but there we are, and attorney, court, and judicial time was needed to help settle a silly argument between supposedly mature adults. All in all, I think he’s pretty lucky he didn’t marry Toon; I hope he found someone more worthy of his attention.


The Comments section this week talked about a ridiculous warning label: a First Alert Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (#SC01N), which includes a “silence” button to shut the thing up in case you burn your toast. In the User Manual (p3), it notes: “WARNING! Do not use the Silence Feature in emergency situations. It will not correct a CO problem or extinguish a fire.”

Once I finished rolling my eyes over that, the letters started coming in. Uh oh.

Phil in Pennsylvania: “First Alert has to put ridiculous warnings in their instruction manual. First Alert is afraid someone will push that button and be shocked the detector did not put out their fire because the instruction manual didn’t say it wouldn’t. Then they will sue the company.”

Becky in Wisconsin: “Unfortunately, they are protecting themselves from a potential lawsuit by putting that in the instructions. There must have been some idiot somewhere that complained about it.”

It’s like the True Stella Awards wasn’t about trying to do something about the problem of ridiculous lawsuits or something.

Their fear of lawsuits is exactly the point! Shouldn’t warnings be for things that the average person might not realize? Do we all have to suffer through 10,000 “warnings” on every product because manufacturers have to specifically tell people that pressing a tiny button on a battery-operated device can’t extinguish a raging inferno? When there’s a huge string of ridiculous warnings, how are the real warnings supposed to stand out? When there’s a “warning” everywhere you look, pretty soon you won’t see them at all — and we’ll have to have a new sticker, “Caution! Be sure to read the warnings!” to add to the clutter.

Of course product manufacturers are afraid of stupid lawsuits. That’s what the True Stella Awards is all about. The solution isn’t to cover every square inch of every product with warning labels; the solution is to fight for a fair legal system that gives ample awards to people who are legitimately injured by another’s negligent actions — and not give awards to those who weren’t injured, or were injured mostly due to their own idiotic actions. Is that really too simple?

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2 Comments on “029: Unlucky in Love

  1. For a ‘Successful stock broker’ with three prior wives, he should have read the warning labels. Fortunately, it only took him 2 years to figure it out. Of course, if she realized he had 3 prior wives, maybe SHE read the warning labels! Sometimes the ‘honeymoon’ period on the relationship finally wears off and both parties come to their senses we all have baggage. His investment of only two years showed she was not the ‘Bond’ he should have invested in, pun intended. Great story!

  2. I have mixed feelings. He gave the ring and other things as a gift. A gift is not something you lend another person but something you do not expect to get back. On the other hand, she took advantage of the situation.

    Accepting an engagement ring means you’re making a promise. If you decide to break that promise (and there can certainly be great reasons to do so!), then the ring “should” be returned. Whether it’s a matter of law has indeed been decided in court many times, and the case law may vary from state to state. -rc


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