Surrey’s Sukhwinder Khatkar asked to pay $150,000 in damages for cutting neighbour’s cedar shrubs


VANCOUVER, BC: A Surrey woman who caused permanent damage to over 74 of the cedar trees in her neighbour’s property has been ordered by a B.C. court to pay her neighbors almost $150,000 in damages plus thousands more in court costs.
The Supreme Court’s decision was posted online Thursday. Khatkar did not appear in court and the judge noted that the defendant was well aware of the date on which the summary trial was proceeding. So she ordered the trial to proceed in the absence of the defendant. The court decision mentions that the neighbouring property owner sued Khatkar for unlawfully trespassing onto their property between July and December 2021, and on many occasions cut the tops and the branches off their cedar trees, ultimately causing their cedar hedge to be destroyed. In an oral ruling, Justice Amy D. Francis said that Khatkar “did not have permission to do this.”
Justice Francis said, “Trespass to land occurs when one enters upon or directly interferes with the land of others without lawful justification. Cutting trees on another’s property without consent is actionable trespass.”
The court document mentions that the cedar hedge provided a complete privacy screen between the two properties, which was something that the two individuals who lived on the plaintiff’s property valued about the property. Between the cedar hedge and the defendant’s property, on the plaintiff’s property, there was a chain link fence that separated the two properties.
“The evidence, which included photographic and video evidence, amply supports the factual finding that starting in July 2021, the defendant repeatedly trespassed onto the plaintiff’s property and damaged the cedar trees and the cedar hedge,” the document mentions.
On at least two occasions, the Khatkar’s neighbor contacted the police. On September 29th, 2021, an RCMP constable spoke to the defendant, told her that she did not have permission to cut the cedar hedge that was not on her property and was clearly on the plaintiff’s property, and told her to cease trespassing on the plaintiff’s property. Approximately 30 minutes after the constable left, the defendant re entered the plaintiff’s property and continued to damage the plaintiff’s cedar trees in direct contravention of the warning of the police, not to mention the repeated warnings given by the plaintiff.
By October 21, 2021, approximately 75 of the plaintiff’s cedar trees had been limbed and topped by about 9 to 11 feet each, such that the trees that had previously been 15 feet tall were only about 4 to 5 feet in height.
Despite repeated warnings, Khatkar continued trespassing and continued cutting cedar trees. According to the document, on December 20, 2021, Khatkar appeared to have trespassed onto the neighbour’s property and also cut a portion of the chain link fence separating the two properties.
The judge said, “I have no trouble finding on the evidence before me that the defendant’s trespass resulted in permanent damage to over 74 of the plaintiff’s cedar trees.”
Khatkar has now been asked to pay the cost of damages. “ Therefore, I assess general damages as follows: remediation costs of $59,915, plus an additional $50,000 for loss of amenity, for a total award of $109,915.”
The plaintiff, identified as 0973210 B.C. Ltd., was also granted about $3,500 for an arborist’s services.
The plaintiff also seeks a punitive damages award in the range of $30,000 to $35,000. The Judge agreed with the plaintiff that the defendant’s conduct was reckless, high handed, and is without question deserving of punitive damages. “Such reckless disregard for the property rights of others ought to be discouraged for reasons of denunciation and deterrence. As such, I assess punitive damages in the amount of $35,000.”
The damages totalled about $148,500, and the judge also ruled Khatkar was responsible for the other party’s court costs and issued an injunction banning her from ever again entering the neighbour’s property.