An Okanagan woman, who alleges a social worker misappropriated funds she was entitled to while she was in foster care, has taken a small step forward in a large legal battle.
The woman, whose name is covered under a publication ban, filed a civil suit in B.C. Supreme Court naming the Ministry of Children and Family Development and Director of Child Welfare, Interior Savings Credit Union and several unnamed individuals. Also named is Robert Riley Saunders, her former social worker, whose bank records are the subject of the suit.
In court documents obtained by Kelowna Capital News, she alleges Saunders created a joint bank account with her, from which he subsequently transferred funds into other accounts in his name at Interior Savings. She also alleges negligence, breach of contract, fraud and a conspiracy between Saunders and unknown employees of Interior Savings.
The suit is still before the courts, but one legal battle turned out in the woman’s favour regarding efforts to have Saunders’ financial records produced.
While Interior Savings had already produced statements relating to the woman’s accounts, she was seeking further information regarding 17 other alleged victims who have accused Saunders of wrongdoing as well as mortgage documents and other financial information.
Interior Savings took the position that those documents were irrelevant and contained personal information of third parties who had not been given notice of the application.
The court agreed that certain requested documents were not germane to the suit but did order that Interior Savings produce some documents they previously hadn’t.
In an Oct. 16 decision, the judge noted the woman had tendered a copy of a “Personal Member Application” which was signed by Saunders as the applicant and an Interior Savings employee as a witness. Where the woman would have signed, over the words “applicant signature,” “not a signer,” was written.
The woman contends that this document is evidence that Interior Savings allowed Saunders to open an account in her name without her signature.
“She argues that this was contrary to Interior Savings’ policy, which required that a beneficiary sign a Personal Member Application and consent to an account being opened,” read the documents.
According to Interior Savings, that document was not for a joint account, but rather a trust account, for which the beneficiary’s signature is not required.
“The distinction between a joint account and a trust account may be an issue at trial,” read the decision.
However, the judge did find the account opening document submitted by the woman provides at least some evidence that Interior Savings allowed Saunders to open an account for the plaintiff without her signature or agreement.
Interior Savings was ordered to produce any further account opening documents on which one of the alleged victims of Saunders is “not a signer” or the alleged victim’s signature is left blank, as well as statements for those accounts.
“Beyond these specific documents, however, the plaintiff’s demand for all of the account documents for all of Saunders’ alleged victims is overbroad and unsupported by the pleadings or evidence,” the judge wrote.
The notice of application identifies 17 additional victims but does not explain their alleged victimization by Saunders or how his conduct in relation to those individuals is relevant to his conduct or the knowledge of the defendants in this action.
This proceeding is one of 10 actions naming Interior Savings as a defendant with respect to Saunders’ alleged misappropriation or mishandling of funds, three of which allege fraud and conspiracy.
“It is unclear how the allegations of the 15 other alleged victims relate to the matters at issue in these actions. I am informed by counsel for Interior Savings that the allegations in the other actions are different in kind from the allegations in these actions,” the judge wrote.
These allegations have not been proven in court.