Murder at Vancouver mansion: Seller did not have to disclose killing, court rules
The home at 3883 Cartier St. in Vancouver is shown in this undated photo from Google Street View.
CTV News Vancouver
Published Wednesday, April 24, 2019 3:51PM PDT
The B.C. Court of Appeal has reversed a lower court ruling against the former owner of a Vancouver mansion who did not tell a prospective buyer about what police believe was a targeted murder that had taken place outside the property.
In March 2018, the B.C. Supreme Court found that the would-be buyer of a $6.1-million Shaughnessy home, Feng Yun Shao, was the victim of "fraudulent misrepresentation" when she agreed to the purchase without being told that Raymond Huang had been fatally shot outside the front gate in 2007.
According to documents from the Court of Appeal, the seller, Mei Zhen Wang, was told she had to repay a $300,000 deposit after Shao, who learned about Huang's death through friends, backed out of purchasing the home in 2009. Shao was also awarded interest and costs.
Wang herself had initiated a civil suit against Shao for breach of contract the year after the sale fell through, court records show. Shao responded in April 2011, claiming she had been deceived during the initial transaction.
Court documents show that the in the original trial, the seller testified that her son-in-law's murder did not motivate the sale, but that the decision was made because the home was sitting empty after the family moved to accomodate a grandchild's changing private schools.
Court documents suggest the staff at the school the granddaughter had been attending "insisted that she leave…expressing concern for the safety of students."
The judge, however, did not accept Wang's testimony on that point, writing that "I find that the murder of Raymond Huang was also a reason why the plaintiff wished to sell the property."
The court records say neither Wang nor her realtors mentioned in their discussions with Shao that the change of school was a result of media reports about the killing.
Ultimately, the judge in the initial trial ruled in Shao's favour, saying she was "entitled to an accurate answer, rather than one calculated to conceal Mr. Huang's death as a reason for the plaintiff's decision to sell the property."
But in their decision to reverse the ruling, Justices Mary Newbury, Daphne Smith and Peter Willcock of the Court of Appeal found that such a conclusion could not be drawn based on the information available.
"If her daughter’s private school had not made the unfortunate decision it did, the family likely would not have moved at all," they wrote. "Thus there was no misrepresentation by omission."
The Court of Appeal ruling also puts the onus on the buyer to ask specific questions about aspects of a property that might affect their sensitivities, rather than on the seller to provide such information in response to general questions about the listing.
"There was no evidence (the seller) knew or should have expected that Ms. Shao would have a particular sensitivity to an event that had occurred two years earlier and that did not affect the quality of the house or its usefulness," Newbury wrote. "Without such evidence, any omission would not be material."
The Court of Appeal set aside the damages Shao was awarded by the Supreme Court.
The home was later sold to another buyer for some $5.5 million, according to court documents.
Huang's murder remains unsolved.
With files from The Canadian Press
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