2017 Harvest

2017 Harvest

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The farm, the break-up and unjust enrichment

Regina Domisiewicz and Bruno Lampart cohabited in a marriage-like relationship from in or about August 1992 until January 13, 2006. They did not have children together; however, Ms. Domisiewicz had a daughter, Joanna, who lived with the parties from the age of 12 until she turned 22. The plaintiff, Ms. Domisiewicz, sought a declaration from the B.C. Supreme Court that the defendant, Mr. Lampart, was unjustly enriched through her efforts on his farm and financial contributions and that she has suffered a corresponding deprivation. In particular, Ms. Domisiewicz claimed an interest by way of constructive trust in respect of two properties registered solely in Mr. Lampart’s name.

Under provincial family law statutes, spouses are entitled to a share of the "net family property" on the breakdown of marriage.  In this case, where the parties were not married, the division of property depends on the Common Law and principles of Equity. 

Mr. Lampart opposed Ms. Domisiewicz’s claim for a division of assets based on unjust enrichment and constructive trust.  He maintained that Ms. Domisiewicz did not suffer any deprivation because she was enriched by the lifestyle she enjoyed while living on his property and was able to rent out her own property, provide her daughter with a residence, and ultimately sell her own property for a considerable profit. In the alternative, Mr. Lampart argued there was a juristic reason for the deprivation because the parties had an agreement that her financial contribution and labour represented rent for Ms. Domisiewicz and her daughter while they resided in the Family Residence.  In the further alternative, Mr. Lampart argued that if a division of assets is ordered, only the Family Residence should be divided and any interest accorded to Ms. Domisiewicz should be minimal.

In order to succeed in a claim for unjust enrichment, Ms. Domisiewicz had to demonstrate:
  1. That Mr. Lampart was enriched by her contributions;
  2. That she was correspondingly deprived by contributing to Mr. Lampart;
  3. That there was no jurisitic reason for the enrichment.
In other words, Ms. Domisiewicz needed to show that she had provided, to her detriment, a benefit to Lampart for no "juristic" or legal reason (e.g. under a contract or other legal obligation owed to him).  Perhaps there were non-legal reasons to justify her contribution and Lampart's enrichment, but in this case the Court was concerned only with legal justifications.

In the end, the Court found not only that Mr. Lampart was unjustly enriched and that the appropriate remedy was to provide Ms. Domisiewicz with a beneficial interest in his property (i.e. the constructive trust - a trust created by the Court), but that Ms. Domisiewicz was also unjustly enriched at the expense of Mr. Lampart.  The Court found that there was a benefit conferred on Ms. Domisiewicz in the form of shelter and a contribution toward her living expenses.  Had Ms. Domisiewicz and her daughter, Joanna, lived on their own they would have incurred living expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, food, and clothing.  Mr. Lampart’s home also afforded them an opportunity to live in a rural environment which was their preference. More directly, Mr. Lampart’s provision of shelter permitted Ms. Domisiewicz to rent out her Salton Road Apartment as a means of earning income and paying off the mortgage. Lastly, Mr. Lampart provided some used appliances for the Salton Road Apartment and recommended the installer that Ms. Domisiewicz hired to replace the floors.

Read the decision at: Domisiewicz v. Lampart.