Former Langley blueberry farm owners ordered to pay $3 million after crop poisoned – Vancouver Sun

Former Langley blueberry farm owners ordered to pay $3 million after crop poisoned - Vancouver Sun
B.C. court reduces sale price of blueberry farm after former owners poison crop
Why would the defendants do such a thing? This only takes one so far. Why would anyone do such a thing? — yet someone did

A lone black crow looks over replanted blueberry farmland along 240 Street in Langley on Tuesday. Mike Bell / PNG

Gomery says in the decision that although the case against the brothers is circumstantial, there are "no other plausible candidates" who could have sprayed almost 24-hectares of healthy blueberries with chemicals, destroying the crop just as the farm changed hands.

The former owners of a large blueberry farm in Langley who destroyed the crop by spraying herbicides over the fields have been ordered to pay nearly $3 million to the new owners.

Poisoning blueberry fields was pointless, B.C. judge tells farmers

The 60-acre farm on 240 Street had been owned by two brothers, Zora and Harminder Grewal, with net annual revenues exceeding $200,000, until they defaulted on their mortgage in 2016 and the farm went into foreclosure proceedings.

Vindictive and malicious Metro Vancouver blueberry farmers poisoned fields for new owners

In June 2017, the farm was sold to Malkiat and Satwant Baring for $5.531 million and following an unsuccessful appeal of the sale by the Grewal brothers, the couple acquired the farm on July 17, 2017.

But shortly before they bought the farm, the Grewals sprayed herbicides, a chemical product that is intended to destroy vegetation, over the fields, ruining the blueberry bushes, a judge has found.

The Grewals admitted they had sprayed insecticide on the property on July 13, 2017 but denied that they had sprayed herbicides, a story that B.C. Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Gomery did not believe.

A seven-day trial conducted in Vancouver last month heard Harminder Grewal tried to talk the Baring family out of completing the sale in a conversation Gomery concludes was at least a warning, if not a threat.

“The timing and the circumstances of the spraying point in the direction of Zora and Harminder Grewal,” said the judge in a 24-page ruling.

A decision from B.C. Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Gomery finds the damage to the farm in Langley by former owners Zora and Harminder Grewal was "pointless" and will be felt for more than a decade.

“They had access to the tractor and sprayer used for the spraying that they admit they carried out on July 13, 2017. They were the only people who had assured access on the farm to the large quantities of water required for extensive spraying.”

Blueberry farmland along 240 Street in Langley. Zora and Harminder Grewal admitted they had sprayed insecticide on the property on July 13, 2017 but denied that they had sprayed herbicides. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Gomery did not believe them. Mike Bell / PNG

Gomery has ordered the purchase price of the farm be cut by nearly $2.8 million and he set punitive damages of $150,000 to denounce the Grewals' misconduct "and give them their just desserts."

“Why would the defendants do such a thing? This only takes one so far. Why would anyone do such a thing? — yet someone did.”

Gomery says in the decision that although the case against the brothers is circumstantial, there are "no other plausible candidates" who could have sprayed almost 24-hectares of healthy blueberries with chemicals, destroying the crop just as the farm changed hands.

Gomery noted that days before the sale went through, Harminder Grewal had attempted to persuade the couple to walk away from their purchase and had warned them about a dispute among the Grewal brothers.

VANCOUVER – A "vindictive" and "malicious" decision by two British Columbia blueberry farmers to poison their fields rather than hand over the farm in a court-ordered sale has cost the two men almost $3 million.

“No one else had any kind of a motive, while it is plausible that the defendants were angry with the Barings and had a misconceived wish to punish them.”

The decision says the damage to the crop was readily apparent on the afternoon the Barings took over the farm, despite an inspection just seven days earlier that found the productive bushes were almost ready for harvest.

Gomery, who called the spraying of herbicides “deliberate, malicious and wantonly destructive,” determined that as a result of the misconduct of the Grewals, the Barings were entitled to a reduction in the farm purchase price of $2,796,400.

“It is significant that the defendants attempted to conceal the spraying by carrying it out under cover of darkness. While the defendants did not profit from their misconduct, they pointlessly destroyed an entire crop of blueberries and the damage done to the plants will be felt for more than a decade in total.”

Rob Ellis, a lawyer for the Barings, said Tuesday that almost all of the farm has had to be replanted but noted that before the herbicide spraying there were mature blueberry-producing plants that were in full production.

“What they’ve had to replace it with are young, immature plants simply because that’s all that’s available. And it will take a number of years for them to reach full maturity and therefore full production.”

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As for recovering the money the Grewals have been ordered to pay, Ellis noted that of the $5.5 million initially paid for the farm, Farm Credit Canada, which held a mortgage over the farm, was paid $3 million that was owed to them following the foreclosure action in which the sale was approved.

Blueberries are shown in a handout photo from the Canadian Press. (British Columbia Blueberry Council / Tracey Kusiewicz)

“There are some competing claims to that sum and there will be another court hearing to determine that.” The competing claims are the Barings as well as creditors of the Grewals, said Ellis.

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This translation has been automatically generated and has not been verified for accuracy. Full Disclaimer

A vindictive and malicious decision by two British Columbia blueberry farmers to poison their fields rather than hand over the farm in a court-ordered sale has cost the two men almost $3-million.

A decision from B.C. Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Gomery finds the damage to the farm in Langley by former owners Zora and Harminder Grewal was pointless and will be felt for more than a decade.

Justice Gomery says in the decision that although the case against the brothers is circumstantial, there are no other plausible candidates who could have sprayed almost 24-hectares of healthy blueberries with chemicals, destroying the crop just as the farm changed hands.

The new owners, Malkiat and Satwant Baring, had purchased the property for $5.5-million in a foreclosure sale in June, 2017, and, after an unsuccessful appeal by the Grewals, took over the farm a month later.

The decision says the damage to the crop was readily apparent on the afternoon the Barings took over the farm, despite an inspection just seven days earlier that found the productive bushes were almost ready for harvest.

Justice Gomery has ordered the purchase price of the farm be cut by nearly $2.8-million and he set punitive damages of $150,000 to denounce the Grewals misconduct and give them their just deserts.

The most troubling aspect of the evidence is the question of motive. Why would the defendants do such a thing? This only takes one so far. Why would anyone do such a thing? Yet someone did, Justice Gomery says in his judgment posted online Monday.

A seven-day trial conducted in Vancouver last month heard Harminder Grewal tried to talk the Baring family out of completing the sale in a conversation Justice Gomery concludes was at least a warning, if not a threat.

It says the Grewals deny saturating the fields with two herbicides, one of them known by the trade name Roundup, but they may have taken the step because they were angry with the Barings and had a misconceived wish to punish them.

Justice Gomery rejected the Barings request that because the misconduct occurred while they owned the farm but did not have possession, the Grewals should remain liable for the entire amount, even if the brothers declare bankruptcy.

The defendants misconduct did not constitute fraud, embezzlement, or misappropriation, Justice Gomery says, adding that those are key issues when deciding if the Grewals could face such a declaration under Canadas bankruptcy act.

Justice Gomery also rejected the Barings request for special costs, but ruled that their legal costs should be paid by the Grewals.

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