2012 is coming. Why don't you give me all your money?

I have a hypothetical legal question. I guess Canadian answers would be most interesting, but since it’s hypothetical I don’t mind answers from any legal jurisdiction.

2012 is getting closer and closer. Let’s say I end up with a neighbour that fervently believes that the world will end in 2012. I tell her that the fact that the long Aztec calendar ends in 2012 has no more relevance to the end of the world than the fact that the modern Christian calendar ends on December 31 of every year; however she stubbornly insists that 2012 will mark the end of the world.

OK - I decide she’s being a pest and I retaliate by suggesting a few times that she give me all of her money because she’s not going to need it and that extreme generosity will certainly help guarantee her a place in Heaven. Amazingly, I actually manage to persuade her to do so.

Along comes New Years Day 2013. She is destitute and because I am not particularly considerate of idiots (remember, this is a hypothetical situation :D) I refuse to return her money.

Can she sue me successfully? On what grounds? There have been other more localized end-of-the-world beliefs in the past (didn’t Jehovah’s Witnesses predict the EOW a few times?) Has this scenario ever made it to court in the past?

Well for starters, you might want to get her money before December 20th and not the 31st, as that’s when the calendar ends. It’s probably safest to use Central Time (GMT/UTC -6) as well.

Nitpick; It’s supposedly the Mayan calendar that predicts all this garbage (it doesn’t, of course).

You will feel pretty silly when the world ends and you are in hell for trying this evil scam, while your neighbour is sitting pretty in heaven for her generosity. :slight_smile:

If she voluntarily gives you the money, I don’t see how she has a leg to stand on. I guess she could try to argue that you coerced her by manipulating her beliefs. The success of that might depend on how convincing she is and what the judge is like.
IANAL, obviously.

The book When Prophecy Fails addresses this early on. IIRC (I’m not sure where my copy is just now) a Christian sect called The Diggers believed the end was nigh. Believing they had no need for worldly goods, they gave everything to the poor. Some even took out large loans to give more money to the poor. If I further recall correctly, these people were just screwed.

If you want more certainty, you can always draw up a letter or contract and have your neighbor sign it in front of witnesses and a notary public. That should hold up.

Coercion, temporary mental illness, etc. You would have a hard time retaining that money. A jury would just feel sorry for her. We coddle end of the world believers. A christian majority nation will sympathize with her.

I’m not really sure that court proceedings would actually be in front of a jury. Regardless to whether or not even the judge feels bad for her (should it actually come to that) if she gave up her money voluntarily, I don’t believe she would have a legal leg to stand on to get it back.
She would also have a hard time convincing anyone that she was coerced, or that she was suffering from a temporary mental illness.