Bitcoin litigation, police authority to stop vehicles has limits, and jurisdiction over a family law case for an international sailing couple


This week on Legally Speaking with Michael Mulligan:

In 2018 a BC man made an agreement to sell 50 bitcoins for $10,700 each for a total of $535,000. The purchaser didn’t complete the purchase of the bitcoin, so the prospective seller sued.

The person who was sued claimed that he didn’t enter into the contract personally, but did so on behalf of a company, Einstein Exchange Inc. that went bankrupt and ceased operations in October of 2019.

When someone enters into a contract on behalf of a corporation, they are not personally responsible for it. You can’t successfully sue Tim Cook if your Apple computer stops working.

While it may be more difficult to determine on what basis someone is contracting with a very small business, the case discussed involves one of the basic principles of civil litigation: when you sue or sue someone, there is an obligation to list and exchange all relevant documents.

Unlike in a criminal case, where the accused person has a right to remain silent, in a civil case the parties are required to list and provide all relevant documents with each other. This disclosure requirement is intended to promote the resolution of disputes over money.

In the case discussed on the show, the defendant was ordered to provide a complete list of relevant documents and to confirm it was complete by swearing an affidavit.

Since this dispute began, the price of bitcoin has gone up and down but is now more than $15,000. Had the plaintiff just kept his 50 bitcoin they would have been worth more than $770,000.

Also discussed is a criminal case involving guns and ammunition located in a car stopped by the police.

Police officers are permitted to stop a vehicle at any time to ensure compliance with the Motor Vehicle Act including that the driver is licensed, has insurance, and is sober.

Police officers are not, however, permitted to arbitrarily stop vehicles to investigate a suspicion of criminal conduct.

In the case discussed, the judge concluded that the police officer who stopped the car lied about his reason for doing so. A second police officer that attended and testified provided markedly different evidence about what occurred.

The judge concluded that the vehicle was not stopped to ensure compliance with the Motor Vehicle Act. As a result of this conclusion, and because the officer involved was untruthful about what occurred, the evidence that was located was excluded from consideration in the trial and the passenger in the car was acquitted.

Finally, a family law case concerning an application for spousal support and the division of property following a ten-year relationship where the couple spent seven years sailing around the world.

In order to start a family court case in British Columbia, there must be a substantial connection to the province. A judge would also need to conclude that British Columbia is the most convenient jurisdiction for the case to proceed.

In the case discussed, even though the claimant was living in Portugal, and the respondent was living on the sailboat, at the time the action was commenced, because a substantial part of the respondent’s property was in British Columbia, the case was allowed to proceed.

Follow this link for a transcript of the show and links to the cases discussed.

Legally Speaking with Michael Mulligan is live on CFAX 1070 every Thursday at 10:30 am.