The Appellant, Wen-Chi Tsai, and Respondent, Lucien Dugal, were in a relationship together for 13 years until separating in July 2014. During the relationship, the parties cohabitated for a period of time in a condominium owned by the Appellant. However, for the majority of this cohabitation period the parties resided in a property solely owned by the Respondent – “123 Morse”. The Respondent purchased this property prior to the commencement of the relationship with the Appellant. To assist with paying off the Respondent’s mortgage for the 123 Morse property, he sold another property at a significant profit.
Following the separation of the parties, the Appellant commenced litigation regarding all properties owned by the Respondent. The appeal focused solely on the issue of whether the Appellant was entitled to an interest in the proceeds of the sale of the property. The Appellant argued that she was entitled to such proceeds as there was unjust enrichment on behalf of the Respondent.
The application judge dismissed the claim of unjust enrichment. The Appellant has brought this motion on appeal as she claims that the application judge erred by failing to account for the evidence that she had presented and that the incorrect test was used to determine if unjust enrichment had occurred on behalf of the Respondent.
In analyzing the decision of the application judge, the Ontario Court of Appeal found that the correct test was applied to enter a finding that no unjust enrichment had occurred. This analysis included asking if there was:
- An enrichment of Mr. Dugal;
- A corresponding deprivation of Ms. Tsai; and
- The absence of any juristic reason for the enrichment
The Court of Appeal found that the application judge adequately considered Ms. Tsai’s contributions to the property owned by Mr. Dugal. These contributions were not a determinative factor in the analysis and the Appellant had been paid $300,000 by the Respondent to reimburse her for such investments, and she had lived in the property rent-free. Furthermore, the court accepted that the Respondent did experience a benefit with respect to the fact that 123 Morse dramatically increased in value from the commencement of the parties’ period of cohabitation to their separation. The court noted that this benefit experienced by the Respondent did not come at any expense to the Appellant. It was accepted that Ms. Tsai had every opportunity to pursue her career and was able to commit to investment opportunities that she wanted to. Therefore, the Court of Appeal found no error in the decision of the application judge in ruling that the Appellant did not suffer any deprivation during the relationship.
On appeal, the court further noted that even if the qualifications for unjust enrichment had been met, the Appellant failed to satisfy the onus of a joint family venture. The Appellant requested that she be granted half of the proceeds from the sale of the home that the parties had cohabitated in. This claim was rejected by the application judge as the evidence demonstrated that the parties did not go so far as pooling their finances together nor did they work together toward a common goal.
Conclusion:The court dismissed the appeal brought forward by Ms. Tsai. The Court of Appeal found no error in the reasoning and judgment delivered by the application judge. Thereby, the estate of Mr. Dugal was successful in defending their claim with respect to the properties owned by Mr. Dugal