A B.C. Supreme Court justice has determined that a case involving the loss of more than two million pounds of blueberries from an Abbotsford farm will proceed to a regular trial.
Valley Select Foods Inc. and Cedar View Farms Ltd. had sought to have the matter decided at a summary trial, in which evidence is presented through written documents and there is no need for witness testimony.
The companies are seeking almost $1.87 million US – $2.48 million CAN – in damages from Lloyd’s Underwriters after frozen blueberries became thawed on Aug. 1, 2019.
Court documents indicate that the core of the dispute is whether the damage to the blueberries is covered by an insurance policy issued by Lloyd’s.
Valley Select, which processes and converts field blueberries into frozen ones, argues that the damage was caused by a failure of a freezer and is covered by the insurance policy.
Lloyd’s argues that the damage was caused by the processing methods used by Valley Select and is not covered by the policy.
The court documents state that Valley Select processes an average of more than 20 million pounds of blueberries each year.
In 2019, the company leased a processing facility at 31867 Marshall Rd. in Abbotsford because the harvest was above average that year.
The lease included a holding freezer, which was designed to keep the temperature between -18 C and -26 C.
Valley Select processed more than two million pounds of blueberries from July 14 to Aug. 1, 2019, the documents state.
On Aug. 1, employees noticed that skids of frozen blueberries in the freezer had collapsed and that the fruit had become thawed.
“The plaintiffs’ expert is of the opinion that the loss was caused by the leak in the tubing of the compressor in one of the refrigeration units in the freezer, allowing refrigerant to escape. This affected the cooling capacity of the freezer, and led to the blueberries thawing,” the documents state.
However, the defendant’s expert has said the loss was caused by the improper use of the OctoFrost – a large tunnel that freezes the produce fed through it – including the lack of drying power in the machine and not enough capacity in the freezer for the amount of frozen blueberries being stored.
Valley Select had asked the courts for a declaration that Lloyd’s be ordered to compensate them for their loss.
But Justice Anita Chan ruled Thursday (July 6) that she could not make a decision on the matter at a summary trial on the basis of the evidence submitted, and the case should proceed to a conventional trial.
“In my view, the court is not in a position at a summary trial to determine these complex questions of causation on the basis of the affidavits. It is also not just for the court to decide the issue of causation in this manner,” Chan said.
A date for the trial has not yet been scheduled.