Defamation case in Dawson City after friends object to 'gift' of house

Two women in Dawson City are being sued for defamation after comments they made about a friend's legal dispute. The comments were made online and in mailed letters in regards to a case that's now been dismissed.

Senior's lawyer had called alleged deal 'unconscionable' last year but case dismissed

Last year in a Statement of Defence, Daniele McRae claimed she'd been misled into signing away title to her house. However on March 6, a Consent Dismissal Order was filed to the Supreme Court of Yukon saying all parties now accept title has been transferred "by way of gift." (Audrey Vigneau / GoFundMe )

Two women in Dawson City are being sued for defamation after comments they made about a friend's legal dispute.

The comments were made online and in mailed letters in regards to a case that's now been dismissed by consent.

The controversial Dawson City property case will not be heard in court, despite a senior's claims she was duped into signing away partial legal title to her house.

Senior's lawyer called deal 'unconscionable'

In November 2017, Angela and Michael Senft of Dawson City sued 80-year-old Daniele McRae for access to her property. 

The couple filed a civil claim which said they'd been handed partial title to the house as a gift. 

The 80-year-old woman, in a Statement of Defence, claimed she'd been misled by the retired Dawson City social worker and her husband.

McRae's lawyer wrote she was "induced" into signing legal documents without outside legal advice, saying she "did not exercise free, informed thought." 

The statement called the deal an "unconscionable bargain." It said McRae had clearly told the couple she wanted to cancel the deal.

Nevertheless, the Senfts maintained they had obtained title in exchange for work and renovations done on the house at their expense, though the value is disputed in McRae's account. 

House title transferred 'by way of gift,' reads order

On March 6, a Consent Dismissal Order was filed to the Supreme Court of Yukon.

It says all parties have agreed that Angela and Michael Senft "continue to be registered owners in fee simple and are entitled to possession of the lands and premises." 

The document means the Senfts' lawsuit is dropped, without costs to any party.

The court document states that legal title to the house was indeed transferred "by way of gift." 

Friends sued for defamation

However, the Senfts' are now suing McRae's friends for defamation.

Audrey Vigneau and Susan Hermann both admit to having written posts on Facebook supporting McRae's defence, and being involved in a GoFundMe campaign with the same goals in the past year. 

In a statement of claim, the Senfts also say Hermann mailed a letter "to all persons having mailboxes in the Dawson office."

The Senfts say the posts and letters have caused their reputations "irreparable harm."  

An affidavit filed alongside their statement of claim breaks down the online comments word-for-word.

It asks Vigneau and Hermann to define terms such as "wrong people," "ulterior motives," "untrustworthy," "abusive" "unfair" and others used in the posts and letters.

'Fair comment,' says one defendant

The two defendants have since deleted their posts and apologized on Facebook.

Nevertheless, a Statement of Defence from Hermann's lawyer says "if the plaintiffs have suffered any harm, the plaintiffs' own actions and conduct" are to blame.

It argues that the comments are "protected by the defence of fair comment on a matter of public interest." 

The matter of defamation is set for a civil jury trial from July 18 to 20.

Senior had initially promised 'all bank accounts' in will

The Senfts' Statement of Claim in the defamation case includes facts about their relationship with McRae. 

It states the fact that the couple had initially been added to McRae's last will and testament.  The Statement of Claim describes the couple originally being bequeathed "all bank accounts existing upon [McRae's] death." 

The Senfts' statement of claim says McRae was successful in changing her will so that the couple is now entirely cut out. 

Daniele McRae has said she will not be speaking with media about the case, citing legal advice.

Nicolas Weigelt, representing Susan Hermann, said they also would not be commenting to the media.

Audrey Vigneau is representing herself in the case and could not be reached to request comment. 

The Senfts have also declined to speak with CBC.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.