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B.C. man ordered to repay $3,800 after providing couple with 'absolute garbage' firewood

Tree branches are seen burning in this image from the BC Wildfire Service (Twitter/@BCGovFireInfo) Tree branches are seen burning in this image from the BC Wildfire Service (Twitter/@BCGovFireInfo)
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A B.C. couple who claimed a truckload of firewood they paid $3,800 for turned out to be "unusable" has been awarded a refund at the province's small claims tribunal.

Michael James Hoglund and Tammy Lynne Hoglund purchased a logging truck load of firewood from Karl Blackmore in February 2022, according to the Civil Resolution Tribunal ruling in their case, which was published online Thursday

The pair told the tribunal the wood was delivered after dark during a snowstorm, and remained covered with snow until spring. When they were ready to process the "raw logs" in the spring, they found that the wood quality was "very low," according to the decision, which does not say where in B.C. the dispute unfolded.

They took Blackmore to the CRT seeking $5,000, representing a refund of the $3,800 cash they paid for the unusable wood, plus the cost of having it removed from their property.

For his part, Blackmore told the tribunal the Hoglunds didn't complain about the quality of the wood when he delivered it, and argued there was no proof that the wood the couple provided photos of was the same wood he sold them.

As the party bringing the claim, the Hoglunds had the burden of proving their allegations on a balance of probabilities, meaning it's "more likely than not" that what they alleged is true. In her decision, tribunal member Leah Volkers concluded they had done just that.

EXPERT SAYS WOOD WAS 'ABSOLUTE GARBAGE'

The Hoglunds submitted statements from two experts in support of their claim. The first was Mike Luke, described in the decision as the local logger the couple initially contacted in search of firewood.

According to the decision, the Hoglunds asked Luke to inspect the firewood in July 2022. The expert's statement described the wood as "absolute garbage," saying it was "95-per-cent rotten, with short and half logs."

Luke's statement also described the price the couple paid for the wood as "absolute robbery."

Volkers' decision notes that Blackmore did not dispute Luke's evidence that the wood provided "was largely rotten and of low quality and quantity."

Nor did Blackmore dispute the evidence of Dallas Garcia, a registered log scaler, who told the tribunal in a statement provided by the Hoglunds that the load "would not even meet 'pulp wood' standards."

"Nearly 50 per cent of the load’s entire volume was deducted for rot," the decision reads, summarizing Garcia's statement.

"For fuelwood to provide heat it requires the wood to not have excessive decay. Wood with excessive decay is ineffective as firewood, and creates heavy levels of creosote and heavy thick dark smoke. If a similar load had been delivered to any industrial site, it would have been rejected."

RESPONDENT AGREED TO PROVIDE REFUND

In addition to the evidence provided by the experts, Volkers noted, the Hoglunds submitted text messages in which Blackmore agreed to provide a refund and pick up the wood, which he never did.

"The Hoglunds contacted Mr. Blackmore in August 2022 and told him the firewood was 'so junky' and not worth the $3,800 they paid," the decision reads, summarizing the text messages.

"In response, Mr. Blackmore said that if the Hoglunds had not taken any wood from the load, he would come pick up the firewood and refund them. The Hoglunds responded that they had not touched any of the firewood yet and told Mr. Blackmore he could come pick it up any time."

Regarding Blackmore's defence that there was no proof the Hoglunds have the wood he sold them, Volkers was unconvinced.

The tribunal member noted that Blackmore didn't object to either expert's evidence, and that both experts described assessing wood located on the Hoglunds' property and delivered by Blackmore. The couple said the wood has been sitting "as is" on their property since delivery.

"Mr. Blackmore also did not suggest that the Hoglunds had any other wood on their property or provide any evidence to support his allegation," the decision reads. "So, I find this bare assertion unsupported by the evidence."

Having found in the Hoglunds favour, Volkers ordered Blackmore to pay them $3,800, representing the promised refund for the wood.

The couple did not provide any evidence for the claimed $1,200 cost of removing the wood from their property, so the tribunal member declined to award it.

"I make no order about the firewood itself because Mr. Blackmore failed to pick it up when given the chance," the decision reads. "Further, as noted, I have found it likely has no value in any event."

In addition to the $3,800, Volkers ordered Blackmore to pay the Hoglunds $198.50 in pre-judgment interest and $175 in CRT fees. 

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