Lottery winner obtains victory over former friends in B.C. Court of Appeal

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      More than a decade ago, B.C. authors Chris Gudgeon and Barbara Stewart wrote an entertaining and informative book called Luck of the Draw: True-Life Tales of Lottery Winners and Losers.

      If they ever write a sequel, they might want to include the story of Enone Rosas.

      The former domestic worker has just won a case in the B.C. Court of Appeal against two former friends, who didn't repay a loan from Rosas' lottery winnings.

      "It has been famously said that 'hard cases make bad law'; sometimes, however, hard cases make new law," wrote Chief Justice Robert Bauman in a ruling released today.

      The tale began in 2007 when Rosas won nearly $4.2 million in the lottery.

      According to Bauman's decision, Rosas and her husband brought two friends—Hermenisabel Guarin Toca and Gener Pentecostes Visaya—to the bank as she deposited her windfall.

      Rosas asked the manager for a bank draft of $630,000. According to the bank manager, Rosas said this was for a loan to a friend so that she could buy a house.

      "Shortly afterwards, Ms. Toca and Mr. Visaya purchased their current home for $700,000," wrote Bauman. "They used $480,000 from the bank draft from Ms. Rosas and obtained mortgage financing for the balance."

      Toca and Visaya remained on friendly terms with Rosas—and Visaya even helped Rosas with a convenience store that she had purchased with her jackpot.

      "However, the friendship between Ms. Rosas and Ms. Toca eventually waned and they did not see each other from 2013 until after Ms. Rosas commenced this action," Bauman wrote. "On 17 July 2014, Ms. Rosas filed her notice of civil claim seeking payment of the loan she provided to Ms. Toca, more than seven years after Ms. Rosas transferred the money."

      Toca and Visaya claimed that the $630,000 was a gift from Rosas. Rosas maintained that all but $30,000 was a loan.

      Rosas also insisted that Toca had agreed to repay the money within a year, but that Toca kept asking for annual extensions.

      Trial judge's ruling overturned

      In B.C. Supreme Court, Justice Marguerite Church accepted this evidence, concluding that there was a $600,000 loan.

      But the trial judge ruled that the limitation period for enforcing this repayment ended in January 2014, which was before the lawsuit was filed. And therefore, the lawsuit was statute-barred, meaning the lottery winner, Rosas, was out of luck.

      Rosas appealed, claiming that she and Toca "entered into multiple forbearance agreements to extend the timeline to repay the debt".

      The three-judge panel on B.C.'s top court agreed that these annual modifications "delayed the running of the limitation period".

      "When those modifications are recognized, Ms. Rosas’s cause of action did not arise until Ms. Toca failed to pay by 10 January 2013," Bauman wrote in the ruling, which was endorsed by justices Lauri Ann Fenlon and Barbara Fisher. "Ms. Rosas’s statement of claim was filed on 17 July 2014, which means it was well within the six‑year limitation period under the former Limitation Act."

      That was the basis for the B.C. Court of Appeal decision overturning the trial judge's ruling. 

      Instead of the borrowers getting the money for free, a $600,000 judgment was levelled against Toca, who was deemed solely liable for the loan.