2017 Harvest

2017 Harvest

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Small Claims Court dismisses farmer's claim for triticale crop lost after lease expires

The Plaintiff in this case planted soybeans in 2010 on the 30 acres he rented from the Defendant.  After harvesting the soybeans that fall, the Plaintiff planted and fertilized a crop of triticale - a hybrid grain planted in the fall for harvest early the next summer.  However, by 2011 the Defendant had decided to lease his land to a new tenant who was willing to pay higher rent to grow Napa cabbage.  The Defendant authorized the new tenant to plough under the triticale crop.

Having lost the lease and his triticale crop, the Plaintiff sued the Defendant for $25,000 in damages, representing the loss of grain, straw, lost labour, seed and fertilizer.  The Plaintiff based his claim on two arguments: 1) he had a lease for the property for 2011; and, 2) in the alternative, the doctrine of emblements entitled him to harvest his triticale crop after the 2010 lease expired.  The Plaintiff also claimed that the Defendant was unjustly enriched by the ploughed under triticale.

The trial judge found that there was not a single instance in 2010 or 2011 in which the Defendant agreed to lease his land to the Plaintiff in 2011.  There was, therefore, no lease for 2011.  The judge then addressed the doctrine of emblements - "a right given by law to a person who has an estate of uncertain duration that unexpectedly comes to an end through no act or fault, to take growing crops which were sowed or planted".  In the case of a farm lease, a tenant may have a right to harvest or to care for crops where they were planted prior the unexpected termination of the lease. 

The right to emblements depends on "what is known or expected by the tenant at the time he sows his crops".  In this case, the trial judge added that the expectation of the tenant must also be reasonable.  He found that the Plaintiff, at the time he sowed the triticale in the fall of 2010, had only an expired or soon-to-be expired lease for 2010 and a hope that he would be able to outbid the competition for the land in 2011.  The trial judge determined that this was not a reasonable expectation and dismissed the action.

Read the decision at: Vieraitis v Fitzgerald.