On May 31, 2019, I blogged on the decision of Justice Morgan in Krieser v. Garber,  O.J. 1619. There, the court found that a dock constructed by the Garbers (at a cost of $150,000) was improperly positioned, and posed a nuisance to the adjoining land owners, the Kriesers. The dock was ordered to be removed. The Garbers and the dock builder were also ordered, jointly and severally, to pay $100,000 in punitive damages, and $518,000 in legal costs, and the Garbers were ordered to pay further legal costs of $80,000.
The story does not end there. The Garbers and the dock builder appealed. In a decision released on November 5, 2020, the Ontario Court of Appeal allowed the appeal in part. The Court of Appeal upheld the finding of nuisance and the order to remove the dock. However, it struck the award of punitive damages against the dock builder. Further, it reduced the cost liability of the dock builder to $108,000.
With respect to punitive damages as against the dock builder, the Court of Appeal found that it was incorrect to treat the Garbers and the dock builder “as one” for the purposes of assessing punitive damages. Where there are multiple defendants, the court must consider the misconduct of each of the defendants separately. Punitive damages were appropriate as against the Garbers, as the protracted nature of the interference and their failure to accept a reasonable offer were significant factors. However, these did not apply to the dock builder. The dock builder had no power to move the dock, or to accept the offer to settle. Accordingly, the dock builder’s acts were “not so outrageous that punitive damages were rationally required to punish, deter or denounce it.” In addition, the dock builder was already punished by a criminal court, where a fine was imposed ($4,500), and by the judge’s order that the dock be relocated at the dock builder’s expense.
In reducing the dock builder’s cost liability, the court noted that the dock builder had limited ability to settle the claim. It could not relocate the dock without the Garbers’ approval. “It is unclear to me how [the dock builder] could have brought the action to an end prior to trial without Garber’s agreement.”
Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.
As spring leans toward summer, many begin to think about spending time sitting on a dock. While sitting on a dock (or a patio, if that is more your thing), consider the recent decision of Krieser v. Garber,  O.J. No. 1619.
In 2012, the Garbers decided to build a dock attached to their property on Lake Simcoe. They retained Nealon Wood Products to do so. It must have been a nice dock. The cost was $150,000.
Unfortunately, the dock was not built according to Ministry of Natural Resources-approved plans. It was built 17 feet to the west of where it was supposed to be. Boulders placed around the dock for ice protection extended over the projected lot line of Garbers’ neighbour, the Kriesers. While the placement of the dock improved the view of the Garbers, it did not improve the Kriesers’ view. Additionally, it interfered with the Kriesers’ ability to access their own property by boat.
At trial, the court found that injunctive relief was appropriate. The Garbers were ordered to remove the dock from its current location, and repair the lake bed. In addition, the Garbers and Nealon were ordered to pay the Kriesers $100,000 in punitive damages.
On the issue of costs, reported here, the court awarded the Plaintiff costs of $518,000 for the two week trial, payable by the Garbers and Nealon, jointly and severally. The Garbers were ordered to pay an additional $80,000 for costs “thrown away” in relation to an earlier adjournment of the trial.
In awarding costs, the court noted that the Plaintiff had made a very reasonable offer to settle. The offer was, according to the judge, “the most generous offer to settle I have ever seen”.
In their offer, the Kriesers offered to pay for all of the costs of having the dock and the protective boulders moved. It was estimated that this costs could be in the $150,000 range. This “with prejudice” offer was relied on, in part, to support an award of substantial indemnity costs. It also was a factor in the award of punitive damages.
Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.