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

Norm Scott, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch no. 91 in Lanford, pins the first poppy to launch the annual Poppy Campaign on George Baker, who served with the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1953 to 1989. Baker said it was an honour to be chosen for something so significant for veterans everywhere. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)
Poppy campaign launches in Langford with pinning ceremony

The poppy campaign is officially underway with the first of the pins… Continue reading

Victoria police are asking for help locating 14-year-old, high-risk missing youth, Anabella Lilly. (Victoria Police Department)
Victoria police seek help locating high-risk missing youth

Police say the circumstances under which 14-year-old Anabella Lilly went missing are ‘high-risk’

Victoria fire crews quickly extinguished a multi-unit apartment building fire near Beacon Hill Park on Oct. 30. (Courtesy of Chief Paul Bruce)
Victoria fire crews extinguish multi-unit fire near Beacon Hill Park

Two people have suffered non-life-threatening injuries

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Allentown, Pa. on Oct. 26. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
POLL: How closely are you following the U.S. presidential election?

It may feel like it’s been going on forever but the U.S.… Continue reading

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Most Read