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12th October 2018
B.C. forest company ordered to pay $80,000 in damages for cutting trees on private property in Nanaimo

Western Canadian Timber Products Ltd. was careless and reckless in felling 45 trees on the property of a Nanaimo-area couple, a judge has concluded.

A B.C. forest company has been ordered to pay almost $80,000 in damages after clear-cutting a portion of a Nanaimo-area property.

On Dec. 19, 2014, 45 trees were felled in the span of 45 minutes on the property owned by James and Deborrah Avender.

The couple had received no notice that a feller buncher machine was being brought in to cut timber on an adjacent property owned by Tamihi Logging Company Ltd., which has since changed its name to Western Canadian Timber Products Ltd.

In addition to harvesting timber from the Tamihi property, the machine operator cut the trees on the Avender property.

“On her return from her morning walk, Ms. Avender was shocked to see the large machine clear-cutting a portion of her property,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Butler said in his ruling.

The defendants initially denied that their operator had cut down the trees but several months later admitted they had done so.

The couple argued at trial that the defendants’ actions were reckless and careless, amounting to a gross negligence, and that the trespass on their land was willful, intentional and with a purpose.

The defendants denied they intentionally cut the trees, arguing their mistake was one of inadvertence and they took reasonable steps to check the boundaries of their property.

But the judge said that the plaintiffs’ characterization of events accurately described the nature of the trespass.

“I have no hesitation concluding that the defendants’ approach to determining the property boundaries for the purpose of cutting timber was careless and reckless,” said the judge.” The properties are not in an area of undeveloped Crown land. They are in a rural area within the Nanaimo Regional District which is comprised of small acreage properties with homes.”

The judge said it would have been a simple matter for the company to obtain a survey plan that would show the extent of its property.

Butler ordered Western to pay $16,239 for the cost of debris removal and initial restoration, with the sum received from the sale of the logs to be credited against that amount, leaving the net award under that heading at $12,012.

He awarded $17,500 for the cost of purchasing and planting trees and shrubs for restoration of the site, $5,125 for future plant restoration and $25,000 for the plaintiffs’ loss of amenities.

The judge also awarded $20,000 in punitive damages.

“Here, deterrence of the defendants is an important objective. Western operates a successful logging business and the award must be sufficient to deter it and other similar enterprises from cutting trees without any reasonable steps to find out if they have any right to do so.”