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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Common law spouse wins Alberta unjust enrichment claim

The Plaintiff, Doreen Mabel Josephine Desimone ("Ms. Desimone") and the Defendant, Douglas John Straub ("Mr. Straub") lived together for 20 years from about 1985 to 2005. They never married. During their relationship they lived on a dairy farm (the "old farm") owned by Mr. Straub.

Ms. Desimone claimed that her contribution of labour, goods and money to the old farm have unjustly enriched Mr. Straub, Straub & Sons Dairy Ltd. ("Straub & Sons”), Shane Straub and Rhonda Straub. Shane Straub is Doug Straub's son and Rhonda Straub is Shane Straub’s wife. Ms. Desimone sought a constructive trust in her favour for one half interest in the increase in the value of all the Defendants’ assets and lands from the date of their cohabitation to the date of the trial and one-third the increase in value of the milk quota purchased in 2008. Alternatively, she sought damages in the form of quantum meruit for the total value of the contributions made by her, either in the form of monetary damages or the transfer of specific lands and assets.

In addition to the unjust enrichment claim, Ms. Desimone claimed partner support, in the amount of $3,000.00 per month, from Mr. Straub. Alternatively, Ms. Desimone proposed a combination of a lump sum and periodic partner support, whereby she would receive $1,300.00 per month and a lump sum of $50,000.00 to help her re-establish herself.

Justice Bryan Mahoney of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench agreed that Straub and his company had been unjustly enriched by Desimone, but did not award her any interest in property.  Instead, the judge awarded Desimone an amount equal to 35% of the increase in the value of the property and assets over the period in which she contributed to the farm.  However, an amount she owed to Straub would be deducted from the 35% once that amount was calculated (based on a current appraisal, etc.).

Desimone was also awarded $1,200 per month in spousal support over a five year period to end on July 1, 2010.

Read the decision at: Desimone v. Straub.