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Jury trial begins for 2 Yukoners accused of defaming couple online

A jury trial begins in Whitehorse Monday that's linked to a complex property case in which a senior claimed she was duped into signing away part ownership of her Dawson City home.

Trial linked to property case where senior claimed she was duped into signing away ownership of her home

A jury trial begins Monday for a defamation case brought forth by a Dawson City, Yukon, couple. They claim their reputations were harmed in Facebook posts and letters sent by friends of a senior they were engaged in a property dispute with. (CBC)

Six jurors were selected Monday morning for a trial involving a senior who claimed she was duped into signing away part ownership of her home to a couple in Dawson City, Yukon. 

The jury will hear about a defamation lawsuit brought forth by the couple who claimed they had been given partial title to the house as a gift. That claim was eventually upheld in court.

The couple is suing two of the senior's friends for defamation, claiming the friends posted disparaging comments about the couple that caused their reputations "irreparable harm."

Property ownership civil suit

The legal saga began in November 2017, when Angela and Michael Senft of Dawson City sued 80-year-old Daniele McRae for access to her property. 

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

McRae, in a statement of defence, claimed she'd been misled by the retired Dawson City social worker and her husband. Her lawyer wrote that the senior was "induced" into signing legal documents without outside legal advice," saying she "did not exercise free, informed thought." 

The statement of defence called the deal an "unconscionable bargain" and said McRae had told the couple she wanted to cancel the deal.

Daniele McRae originally claimed she'd been misled by Angela and Michael Senft when signing partial title to her house over to them. That case has since been dismissed with both parties agreeing legal title was transferred to the couple 'by way of gift.' (Audrey Vigneau / GoFundMe )

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

In March 2018, the case was dismissed with the consent of both parties. 

Court documents state all parties agreed that Angela and Michael Senft "continue to be registered owners... and are entitled to possession of the lands and premises." The documents also said that legal title to the house was transferred "by way of gift."

Couple claims damage to reputations

While that case was dropped without costs to either party, the Senfts then sued McRae's friends, Audrey Vigneau and Susan Hermann, for defamation.

Vigneau and Hermann both admit to having written posts on Facebook supporting McRae's defence, and being involved in a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for McRae.

In a statement of claim, the Senfts say Hermann also mailed letters "to all persons having mailboxes in the Dawson office," which caused the couple's reputations "irreparable harm."  

The Senfts say the posts and letters included terms such as "wrong people," "ulterior motives," "untrustworthy," "abusive" and "unfair." 

Vigneau and Hermann have since deleted their posts and apologized on Facebook.

A statement of defence filed by Hermann's lawyer says "if the plaintiffs have suffered any harm, the plaintiffs' own actions and conduct" are to blame.

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

The court has set aside two weeks to hear the case.

With files from Philippe Morin

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