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Punitive Damages Awarded for Trespass to Cut down Trees


This Prince George property owner was awarded $7,500.00 for  exemplary or punitive damages for trespass as part of a compensation package which included a permenant injunction and $10,500 in damages.(Stewart v. Phillips, 2018 BCSC 828)
The purpose for a punitive damage award includes deterrence, punishment, and recognition of unnecessary humiliation. The basis for a punitive damage award is an injury to the plaintiff done in such a manner that it offends the ordinary standards of morality or decent conduct in the community in such marked degree that censure by way of damages is, in the opinion of the court, warranted. 

The problem with a $7,500 award is that it does appear to be rather nominal.  If a punitive damage award is only nominal then the “cost” of trespass is merely a licensing fee which must be paid by a trespasser.

If punitive damages are warranted, they should be set in an amount to show:

… that, in British Columbia, trespass does not pay. (per Southin J.A. In Prince Rupert (City) v. Pedersonsupra, at p. 428)

[94]         In this case the defendants’ actions to continually enter onto the Properties was deliberate, high-handed and egregious. The defendants’ actions in cutting down the trees on the Stewart Property was at best grossly negligent.

[95]         The plaintiff is an elderly woman who lives by her self on rural property. She approached the defendants on a number of occasions in an effort to deter them from entering the Properties with no success. The defendants disregarded the plaintiff’s rights to the Properties.

[96]         In my view the plaintiff is entitled to an award for exemplary or punitive damages in the amount of $7,500.

Tags: Legal Causation, punitive damages, Trespass compensation

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