Black Press Media files

Black Press Media files

$2.9 million judgment in B.C. blueberry farm sabotage lawsuit

The new owners saw most of their farm ruined just as they took possession

The new buyers of a Langley blueberry farm won a $2.9 million lawsuit against the previous owners for sabotaging the crop with weed killer just before the sale completed.

Malkiat Singh Baring and Satwant Kaur Baring, husband and wife and experienced farmers, bought a 60-acre Langley blueberry farm in a foreclosure sale for $5.5 million in the early summer of 2017, just before the berries were ripe and ready to harvest.

But after a weeks-long legal wrangle with previous owners, brothers Zora and Harminder Grewal, who were fighting the foreclosure, the Barings couldn’t take possession until July 17.

When the Barings arrived on their new property, they found the bushes were turning yellow and dying.

“Shortly before the plaintiffs bought the farm, somebody sprayed herbicides over most of the fields,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Gomery wrote in a judgment released this week. “The blueberry bushes were ruined. The ripe blueberries were rendered unfit for human consumption.”

READ MORE: Weedkiller sabotage claimed in Langley blueberry farm lawsuit

On July 13, the fields were sprayed with what the Grewals said was malathion, a pesticide.

But there was another spraying incident around the same time, this one under cover of darkness.

“One day shortly before the farm was sold to the plaintiffs, in the early morning hours not long after midnight, another neighbour was awakened by the sound of a tractor working in the fields on the farm,” Gomery wrote. “This was unusual and the tractor was behaving unusually, accelerating up and down the rows of blueberry bushes.”

This is suspected to have been when Roundup, a potent weedkiller, was sprayed on the crops, late on July 13 or early July 14.

Circumstantial evidence points to the Grewals as the ones who sprayed Roundup on the fields, Gomery ruled.

They were the only people who had access to the tractor, spraying equipment, and to the locked pump house needed for water to mix with herbicides.

Gomery noted that when the Barings arrived to take possession, they had to use a grinder to cut through a padlock and metal plate over the pump house door, and that the Grewals admitted they were the only ones with keys.

“It is not impossible that the culprits brought thousands of litres of water onto the farm for the spraying or that the pump house happened to be unlocked when the culprits came to the farm, but it is very unlikely,” wrote Gomery.

He called the idea that strangers came and sprayed the fields “far fetched.”

The judge also noted that on July 8, Harminder Grewal told Satwant Baring that she and her husband should “walk away” from their deal to purchase the farm, saying they would be getting involved in a dispute between the Grewal brothers.

“If this was not a threat, it was at the least a warning,” wrote Gomery.

The conversation showed that Grewal was not confident his legal challenge to stop the sale would succeed, the judge said.

Zora Grewal was also clearly upset by the sale, as he showed up on the night of July 17, after the Barings had taken possession, and attempted to break into a farmhouse.

“He was intoxicated and using a hammer to try to break down the door,” Gomery wrote.

The Barings called police after a yelling match.

Gomery decided on the balance of probabilities that Harminder and Zora Grewal, or one of them, sprayed herbicides on the blueberry crops.

About 90 per cent of the crop was sprayed, he noted, and the damage will take years to remedy.

The judge found the Barings were entitled to $2.79 million returned from their purchase price for losses to the crops and future losses, plus $150,000 in punitive damages.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

AgricultureBC Supreme CourtFarmingLangleylawsuit

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A sign indicating a COVID-19 testing site is displayed inside a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
4 more deaths, 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

This brings the total to 66 deaths in the region

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Wildlife biologist and educator Joanne Siderius was last year’s winner of the Suzy Hamilton Legacy Award for women environmentalists in the West Kootenay. Photo: Submitted
Hunter Jin shows off some homemade rice wraps. Donations poured into the Nelson Community Food Centre during the holidays. Photo: Submitted
Nelson Community Food Centre brings in $150k during holiday fundraising

The centre says the money will help address significant need in the city

Castlegar Sculpturewalk 2020 – 10 Year Anniversary Sand Sculpture. (Submitted/CBT)
CBT arts and culture grant program now accepting applications

Apply through the Kootenay Columbia Cultural Alliance

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Interior Health reported two more COVID-19 deaths at Sunnybank Retirement Center in Oliver Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 claims lives of two more South Okanagan care home residents

Five residents of the Oliver care home have died since the outbreak was first declared

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

Most Read