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In the Courts: B.C. bookkeeper on the hook for unpaid fees

Friends had entered business arrangement without any written contract
The B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

A Vancouver-area woman is on the hook for nearly $57,000 following a court order that found her liable for not paying a construction management fee as well as for defamation.

Jun Liu had agreed to hire her then-friend Emma Wang through Wang’s company, Good Castle Real Estate Development Ltd., to act as construction manager for a new residential property in West Vancouver.

The two did not sign a written contract for the work, according to a recent B.C. Supreme Court decision.

But Wang said she wasn’t fully paid for her services and claimed defamation by Liu.

Liu filed a counterclaim alleging Wang owed her for services she’d provided and that Wang defamed her.

However, while Wang was ordered to pay $3,150 to Liu for research Liu did for a construction site for Wang, Liu bore the brunt of the decision. All her other claims against Wang were rejected, while Wang was awarded $52,544 for the construction management fees and another $7,500 for defamation.

Wang argued the two had agreed Liu would pay $112,000 for her fees, while Liu contended the amount was actually $50,000. Evidence for the disagreement came in part through translation of WeChat messages between the two. In the message, Liu agreed to pay “$50,000 with GST, $50,000.”

This was described by Liu as meaning either $50,000 with GST or $50,000 in cash. Wang suggested it was to pay $50,000 twice. Justice Carla Forth sided with Wang, after a certified translator testified that Liu’s insertion of “or” didn’t work with the translation.

Liu advanced in a countersuit several of her own claims of unpaid work done for Wang and her companies, including a $48,070 commission for real estate services. Liu claimed Wang went behind her back to buy a West Vancouver property, but Forth found Liu did not show the two had an exclusive deal for Liu to find her a house.

And the legal deadline for Liu to claim the commission had passed in 2019, Forth added.

She also argued she’d done bookkeeping work for Good Castle through her numbered company, 0737096 B.C. Ltd., and another company, Sunnymead Construction Ltd., that she set up for Wang and did bookkeeping for.

She pinned that cost at a combined $12,600, but Forth noted the numbered company was the entity that held the claim to that money, and neither it nor Sunnymead were a party to the lawsuits. What’s more, the bookkeeping claim against Good Castle had also passed its legal deadline.

Liu also claimed $67,050 in referrals she had made to Wang for construction management work. However, Forth found Liu’s schedule of the fees to be inconsistent with the contracts for the cases.

Wang’s claims of defamation made via YouTube videos fell short, Forth found. But Wang was successful in her defamation claims regarding two WeChat posts.

Liu said in one post that the person suing her would soon also be sued and claimed that person cheated others out of up to $300,000 in their investments by placing costs in the books of other companies and income under herself. The post included a picture of the cover page of the lawsuit, identifying Wang and Good Castle as those suing her.

Wang denied the allegations in the WeChat post.

Liu also used WeChat to share an anonymous text she claimed to have received alleging Wang committed “commercial fraud” and called Wang a “deceitful contractor,” though she redacted the address and names to not identify Wang or Good Castle in the WeChat post.

Forth found the WeChat posts, which she described as containing “serious allegations,” were defamatory and were referencing Wang.

Liu’s defamation claim against Wang, by contrast, was “deficient,” Forth said. Liu had claimed Wang said “bad words” about her – specifically that she charged too much for accounting work.