Thursday, January 21, 2010

Another canola failure case, another failure to prove cause

Last week, I posted a case in which a farmer alleged that defective seed was the cause of his poor canola crop. This week, I have another case along the same lines. This time Pioneer Grain Company sued Saskatchewan farmer Dale Ortynsky after he refused to pay for herbicides he had purchased because he alleged they were the cause of his crop's poor yield. The spray manufacturers, Bayer and Dupont, were added as third parties to the action. Ortynsky also made a counter claim against Pioneer for damages related to the poor yield.

Once again, lack of evidence about the actual cause of the crop failure meant a finding against the canola farmer. Justice J.E. McMurtry of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench concluded, "The defendants have not satisfied me that the poor canola crop resulted from herbicides sold by Pioneer and not by some other factor such as weather, soil conditions, farming practice, and/or application of the [herbicide]." Civil claims must be proved on a balance of probabilities (basically, 50% plus 1 or more likely than not). In this case, as Ortynsky could not prove on a balance of probabilities that the herbicide was the cause of the crop failure, his counter claim failed and he was ordered to pay for the herbicide he had purchased, plus interest and costs.