Thursday, December 15, 2005

British Columbia Court of Appeal Reduces Award in Schnogl v. Blazicevic

The British Columbia Court of Appeal has reduced the award to the Plaintiff in Schnogl v. Blazicevic, 2005 BCCA 575, from a constructive trust over 90% of the deceased's home to 66 2/3% of the home. (See my October 30 post, "Unjust Enrichment: Schnogl v. Blazicevic," for a summary of the facts and a discussion of the trial judge's decision.)

In reducing the award, Madam Justice Prowse for the court said that trial judges have considerable discretion in determining awards in unjust enrichment cases. However, in this case the award was disproportionately high compared to the benefits received by the deceased and the sacrifices made by the Plaintiff. It was also high when compared to awards made in other cases. The award failed to fully take into consideration the benefits the Plaintiff had received from his relationship with the deceased. She said at paragraph 21:
[21] In determining whether the trial judge erred in awarding Mr. Schnogl a 90% interest in the property, I do not lose sight of the fact that these cases are essentially fact-driven. For that reason, it is of limited assistance to compare awards in one case with those in another. Trial judges are given considerable leeway to tailor an award to fit the precise circumstances before them. In this case, however, I am satisfied that the trial judge’s determination did not adequately take into account the fact that Mr. Schnogl continued to work full-time during the time that he provided his services to the Balens, and that he continued to benefit from a significantly reduced cost of room and board during the time he lived with them. While the services he rendered were extensive and prolonged, and while he gave up the valuable opportunity to purchase his own residence, the extent of the unjust enrichment obtained by Mr. Balen must take into account these additional factors.

No comments: