Rebuttal of presumption of life retroactively extinguished entitlement to pension payments

Restitution and Unjust Enrichment - Restitution and unjust enrichment - Miscellaneous

Consequences of rebuttal of presumption of life. Retired university professor, suffering from early-stage onset Alzheimer's disease, left home and disappeared. University was not initially aware of professor's disappearance and continued to pay pension benefits. Later, university contacted professor's former de facto spouse informing her that there were reasonable grounds to believe that professor had died in September 2007. Spouse replied that professor was assumed to be alive pursuant to art. 85 of Civil Code of Quebec and university agreed to continue to pay benefits. Professor’s body was eventually discovered and date of his death was certified to be September 11, 2007. University brought action to recover pension payments it had paid after professor’s death. Trial judge ordered spouse to reimburse university retroactively to December 31, 2007 and Court of Appeal upheld trial judge’s decision. Spouse appealed further. Appeal dismissed. Pension plan unambiguously contemplated termination of benefits upon professor's actual death. Rebuttal of presumption of life under art. 85 of Code retroactively extinguished professor's entitlement to pension payments. Therefore, university's claim for receipt of payment not due under art. 1491 should succeed.

Threlfall v. Carleton University (2019), 2019 CarswellQue 9252, 2019 CarswellQue 9253, 2019 SCC 50, 2019 CSC 50, Wagner C.J.C., Abella J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., Gascon J., Côté J., Brown J., Rowe J., and Martin J. (S.C.C.); affirmed (2017), 2017 CarswellQue 9114, 2017 QCCA 1632, Kasirer J.C.A., Émond J.C.A., and La Rosa J.C.A. (ad hoc) (C.A. Que.).

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