West Vancouver home owner fined for chopping neighbour's trees

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      A man who owned a house in West Vancouver’s upscale British Properties has learned the hard way that one shouldn’t chop down a neighbour’s tree.

      In a decision by the B.C. Supreme Court, Mohammad Shidfar was found liable for having ordered the felling of 10 trees on a property next door. For this, he was ordered to pay his former neighbours, Frederick and Katarina Kranz, damages totaling $97,000.

      Of this sum, $35,000 was allocated by Justice Joel Groves for punitive damages, an amount he described in his ruling released on May 30 as “significant”. He stated that it was “necessary in these circumstances to denounce the conduct of Shidfar and certainly to deter persons such as Shidfar from similar types of action”.

      “Deterrence must have some negative impact on the party required to pay,” Groves wrote. “I have assumed, based only on the neighbourhood he lived in, that Shidfar has some financial means and as such the amount of the award must be significant to have effect.”

      The judge recalled that the case started on March 28, 2006, when Frederick Kranz received a frantic call from his wife who reported that trees on their property at 875 Fairmile Road were being cut down.

      Kranz came home and told the chainsaw-wielding people on the western edge of his property to leave. It was established that these individuals were working under the instructions of Shidfar who was at that time undertaking improvements on his property at 883 Fairmile Road.

      A creek runs between the two lots. According to Groves, Shidfar didn’t make a reasonable effort to ascertain the boundary of his property.

      The Kranz couple and Shidfar eventually sold their respective properties.

      The plaintiffs sought damages valued between $150,000 and $175,000. They asserted that the loss of the trees diminished the value of their property and enhanced that of the defendant. The court didn’t agree with this claim.

      In addition to the $35,000 in punitive damages, Groves awarded $20,000 to the Kranzes for the “loss of privacy and the sense of invasion” they suffered, and $42,000 for the cost of the trees.