Doucette v. Hache, 2010 NSSC 299

The written decision in Doucette v. Hache, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (Family Division) case blogged about here, is now available online.
Mr. Hache and Ms. Doucette were not married, which meant she bore the burden of proving that the parties intended to share his lottery winnings.
One could reasonably assume that this could be established by the fact that the monies were deposited into a joint bank account, not to mention the fact that the parties had previously shared much smaller lottery prizes. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation even put both parties’ names on the ceremonial cheque – though, crucially, the real cheque was made out only to Mr. Hache.
Madam Justice Lynch, however, found that Ms. Doucette was the less credible witness:

[9] There were definite and identifiable problems with the evidence of Marie Doucette. Her evidence revealed that she had memory problems as a result of a car accident. She testified that the period of her memory problems was from June to November of 2004. Under cross-examination she extended the period of memory problems to March of 2005. It is clear that her memory was not reliable during other periods of time.
[…]
[13] These are only three examples of the difficulties with Marie Doucette’s evidence. There were many, many times that Marie Doucette responded to questions by saying that she could not recall or remember. Yvon Hache provided the court with much clearer evidence. Where the evidence of the two parties is in conflict, I accept the evidence of Yvon Hache.

More importantly, it was determined that, even though the money had been deposited into a joint account, they remained entirely under the control of Mr. Hache:

[14] The evidence on the lottery ticket winnings was clear. Yvon Hache purchased the ticket. Marie Doucette scratched the ticket and discovered the win. Both parties went to Moncton when the winnings were collected. Yvon Hache signed all of the paperwork for the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. While the promotional cheque contained both parties’ names, the actual cheque was made payable only to Yvon Hache. After paying some income tax bills for both parties the remainder of the winnings were placed in a joint bank account. This account was set up with the intention that both parties would continue to contribute to it for the down payment on a house. Neither party contributed any more money to the account. The money in the account was moved to another joint account at a different bank and was then used to purchase the house property and the vacant lot.
[15] Marie Doucette did not contribute any money to the joint account nor did she remove any money from the joint account. Marie Doucette testified that she was not allowed to remove money from the account without Yvon Hache’s signature. She had been told this by Yvon Hache. Marie Doucette was not even aware of the location of the joint account. Yvon Hache treated the lottery winnings as if they were his own.
[…]
[23] In the present case, the winning ticket was purchased by Yvon Hache and there was not a general agreement to share any lottery winnings. There was not a specific agreement to share the winnings of $50,000. Yvon Hache made a gift to Marie Doucette by paying her income tax with the winnings. After paying his own taxes, Yvon Hache placed the remaining lottery winnings in a joint bank account to be used to purchase a house. With the exception of this joint bank account, the parties always kept their bank accounts and credit cards separate. Yvon Hache retained control over the bank account. Marie Doucette clearly knew that she was not to access the money in the joint account because she was told so by Yvon Hache and because she was not even aware of the location of the joint account. The lottery winnings were not a joint asset of the parties. The winnings were owned solely by Yvon Hache.

Had the parties been married, Ms. Doucette almost certainly would have been entitled to half of the money. In a common-law relationship, however, a party faces the strenuous task of proving that the parties meant to share the asset, or that the other party would be unjustly enriched if it wasn’t divided.
This case illustrates just how difficult that can be. Even a bank account registered in both parties’ names will not necessarily be shared, if one party did not contribute any money and had little to do with the account. (After considering the parties’ respective contributions toward their home and other property, the court did award Ms. Doucette $11,000.00.)

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One thought on “Doucette v. Hache, 2010 NSSC 299

  1. Perhaps you could enlighten us as to how this case might have transpired in another province. A province that you are familiar with, such as NL.

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