A few decisions on unjust enrichment hold the reader’s eye like Norkum v. Fletcher, 2018 BCSC 904. The decision starts: “Sex for pay, opportunism, deception and false expectations form the backdrop to this litigation.” On June 1, 2018, the Supreme Court of BC issued reasons finding in Mr. Norkum’s favor on allegations of unjust enrichment arising from two properties.
The Court found that Mr. Norkum and Ms. Fletcher met thus: “In July 2007, while commuting through Pearson Airport in Toronto, Mr. Norkum stopped in at a “gentleman’s club” known as the Landing Strip. Ms. Fletcher introduced herself to him by planting her foot in his lap, and so began their relationship.” Later that year Ms. Fletcher was on Mr. Norkum’s company’s payroll and they travelled extensively. Despite a few breaks, the arrangement continued until February 10, 2016.
Mr. Norkum commenced his lawsuit shortly thereafter, seeking recovery for amounts that he had forwarded to Ms. Fletcher. At trial he sought damages for deceit, resulting trust, conversion and unjust enrichment. He succeeded on his claim of unjust enrichment vis-à-vis two properties (and an award splitting some personal belongings). The Court found that:
- Norkum was entitled to $1,100,000.00 for renovations to Ms. Fletcher’s home that he financed;
- Norkum was entitled to $200,000.00 for a property in Trinidad that he paid for but that was in Ms. Fletcher’s name, and
- Other money that Mr. Norkum advanced to Ms. Fletcher amounted to gifts and he was not entitled to compensation for those advances.
The Court found that Ms. Fletcher had not committed the tort of deceit, but found that money advanced by way of the renovations to Ms. Fletcher’s home and the purchase of property in Trinidad was not meant to be a gift. Courts look to the parties’ intentions at the time of the transfer, not at the time of trial to determine if money given gratuitously is a gift or a loan. In this case, the Court examined the parties’ relationship and determined which amounts Mr. Norkum gave Ms. Fletcher were gifts and which were not.