Unloading in the evening

Unloading in the evening

Thursday, April 30, 2015

4640 John Deere case goes up to the Court of Appeal

I previously wrote about a small claims case in Saskatchewan where a man had bid $18,000 at auction to purchase a 4640 John Deere (with loader) but had mistakenly been allowed to pay only $1,800.  The cashier had entered the bid amount incorrectly, missing the last zero in the price.  The purchaser refused to pay any additional amount and claimed that $1,800 was the bid amount.  The Court did not allow the purchaser to take advantage of the mistake and ordered payment of the balance of the $18,000 on the basis of unjust enrichment.

Well, the decision was appealed by the purchaser (who referred to the trial as a "mockery of the judicial system) and has made its way up to the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan.  I invite you to read the Court of Appeal's reasons for dismissing the purchaser's application for leave to appeal (leave to appeal a decision by the Court of Queen's Bench that dismissed an initial appeal), which set out the various interesting grounds of appeal, but here is the conclusion:
[The Purchaser] fails to come to grips with a very simple issue—he was found on the evidence to owe money to pay for farm equipment he purchased at an auction. He had the opportunity at trial to explain why he should not have to pay and passed on the opportunity. His arguments have nothing to do with the fundamental issue, i.e. he did not pay his bid price for equipment because of the mistake of fact and he owes the money. One can only surmise that his actions and his whole argument are simply an attempt to avoid payment.
He has raised no question of law and the appeal has no merit in any event.
The application for leave is dismissed with costs in the usual manner.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Better Farming: Pipelines present new risks to farmers warns landowners group

Click here to read Better Farming's article on the National Energy Board's Administrative Monetary Penalty system that now applies to pipeline landowners.

Monday, April 13, 2015

NEB introduces Administrative Monetary Penalties to landowners

The National Energy Board ("NEB") has issued a new publication called "Administrative Monetary Penalties: Information for Landowners".  Among the information provided by the NEB is the following:
  • How did Administrative Monetary Penalties ("AMPs") come to be?  They were created in July, 2012 as part of the Government's omnibus budget bill;
  • If an AMP is issued to a landowner, the NEB may post the landowner's name on its website;
  • If an AMP is issued to a landowner by the NEB, the landowner may ask the NEB to review its own decision (but, although it is possible for a landowner to ask the Court for a judicial review of the NEB's decision, there is no appeal available where an AMP has been issued).
Landowners are now at risk of being charged AMPs for violations of the NEB Act, including carrying out certain farming activities without pipeline company approval.  Daily penalties range from $250 to a maximum of $25,000 per violation for individuals.  Daily penalties range from $1000 to a maximum of $100,000 per violation for corporations.

Monday, April 6, 2015

BC Appeal Court overturns decision that awarded farm to former worker

In a post from August, 2013 called "Equity ensures farm goes to intended beneficiary after codicil failed", I wrote about a decision of the British Columbia Supreme Court that granted ownership of a farm to a long-time farm worker on the basis of alleged promises made during the lifetimes of the farm owners.   The farm worker said that the owners, Kim and Dietrich, had assured him that the farm would go to him more or less in recognition of his uncompensated work on the farm.  Although their 1998 mutual wills left the farm to someone else, Kim and Dietrich had prepared handwritten codicils that would have left the farm to the worker.  However, with only one witness, the codicils were invalid.  Dietrich died in 2006.  When Kim died in 2011, the worker sued the estate for an equitable interest in the farm (which had been left to another beneficiary).  The trial judge concluded that the worker had made out his claim based on proprietary estoppel (i.e. you promised me and now you can't say that you didn't) and that equity required that the farm go to him.

This decision has now been overturned on appeal.  While the BC Court of Appeal concluded that the farm worker was assured and genuinely believed he would inherit the farm, the Court also found that his detrimental reliance on the assurance was far less than that assessed by the trial judge.  The award of ownership of the farm was far out of proportion to the detriment the worker actually suffered and, in all the circumstances, would not do justice between the parties (as equity is intended to do).

As the Court stated, "detriment forms the backbone of a claim of proprietary estoppel because it is detriment that gives rise to the unfairness which requires equity to intervene."  Reliance is not always detrimental, and it is necessary for the Court to look "at both the overall benefits gained and losses suffered by the claimant."  The Court in this case found that the worker did not suffer from choosing to work at a small accounting firm close to the farm, one of his alleged grounds of detrimental reliance.

But the Court was not able to say definitively that the worker's uncompensated efforts at the farm hadn't given rise to the need for equitable relief.  Therefore, the Court of Appeal set aside the trial judge's decision and sent the case back to the trial judge to assess claims of unjust enrichment and express or implied trust, as well as the issue of proportionality as it related to the claim of proprietary estoppel.

It should be noted that one of the three appellate justices would have dismissed the appeal, finding that it could not be said that the trial judge had improperly exercised his discretion in awarding the farm to the worker.

Read the decision at: Sabey v. Rommel.