Gift giving is rarely awkward and almost always a positive experience – except when it isn’t a present and instead a monetary loan expected to be repaid.
Determining whether payments totalling $7,000 were gifts or a set of loans was at the centre of a recent B.C. court decision earlier this month, in a battle between Victoria man Dinh Tran and a woman he met online who Tran said refused to pay him back.
He said that they were loans. She said that they were gifts.
According to court documents, made available online Thursday, Tran met Nga Le online in early 2011. He made two visits to Le’s Toronto home that same year, as well as a two-week holiday to the U.S.
The pair’s relationship became serious, according to the documents, and Le moved to Victoria in 2012 after visiting Tran’s home, although the pair didn’t live together.
In the first half of 2012, Tran sent funds to Le 10 times totalling $13,600. Transactions included $1,450 for Le to buy a plane ticket to Vietnam and roughly $4,700 deposited directly into Le’s bank account. Roughly $6,900 in funds were spread over five electronic transfers to Le’s mother, who was living in Vietnam at the time.
While the terms of repayment were never discussed, Tran claimed that Le agreed to reimburse him for the monies. But Le disagrees, court documents show, and claims most of the advances were gifts – minus $6,000 of the funds which she repaid to Tran on June 22, 2012.
According to Justice Ted Gouge, the determining factor is what kind of relationship exists between the payer and the recipient.
If they were married, the “presumption of advancement” applies, Gouge said, which means that the payments are presumed to be gifts. If not married, there is a “presumption of resulting trust” which means the recipient is obliged to repay the sums.
While both arguments may be rebutted by evidence that suggests a contrary intention on the part of the payer, the evidence from Le didn’t establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Tran intended the payments to be gifts.
“Accordingly, the evidentiary onus carried by Ms. Le is undischarged, and Mr. Tran is entitled to judgment for $7,629,” Gouge ruled. Le was also ordered to pay Tran’s $156 filing fee and prejudgment interest set by the registrar from June 1, 2012 to Feb. 10, 2020.
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