Supreme Court of Canada decisions in Kerr v. Baranow & Vanasse v. Seguin – Part 1 of 3

July 6, 2011 Hull & Hull LLP Common Law Spouses Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

The Supreme Court of Canada recently considered the property rights of common law spouses in the companion cases of Kerr v. Baranow & Vanasse v. SeguinThese cases required consideration of the following legal issues:

  1. The role of the “common intention” resulting trust in claims by domestic partners. 
  2. Whether the monetary remedy for a successful unjust enrichment claim must always be assessed on a quantum meruit basis.
  3. Mutual benefit conferral in the context of an unjust enrichment claim and when this should be taken into account. 
  4. The role the parties’ reasonable expectations play in the unjust enrichment analysis. 

In Kerr v. Baranow, a common law couple in their late 60’s split after 25 years, during which time both partners worked and contributed to their mutual welfare. The common law wife (“wife”) claimed property on the basis of resulting trust and unjust enrichment.   The common law husband (husband”) counterclaimed that the wife had been unjustly enriched by his housekeeping and personal assistance after she suffered a debilitating stroke.

The trial judge awarded the wife $315,000, (1/3 of the value of the home the couple shared, but which was in the husband’s name) by way of resulting trust and unjust enrichment, because the wife had provided $60,000 worth of equity and assets at the beginning of their relationship. 

 The B.C. Court of Appeal allowed the husband’s appeal because it found the wife did not make a financial contribution to the acquisition or improvement of the property, and ordered a new trial for the husband’s counterclaim.

The Supreme Court of Canada allowed the wife’s appeal from the dismissal of her unjust enrichment claim and ordered a new trial.  Her appeal from the order dismissing her claim in resulting trust was dismissed.  The order for a new hearing of the husband’s counterclaim was affirmed.

Tomorrow’s blog will cover the facts in Vanasse v. Seguin and in our last blog of the week we will explore the main issues discussed in relation to property rights of common law spouses in the context of these two cases.


Sharon Davis – Click here for more information on Sharon Davis

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