A pair of Port Coquitlam neighbours squared off in a recent Civil Resolution Tribunal case after a bear broke the fence between their backyards.
Neighbours Jun Xue and Su Quan Ma – each of whom represented themselves at the tribunal – offered different explanations for what brought the bear to their neighbourhood in November 2021.
Xue accused Ma of negligently leaving her garbage bins unlocked in the backyard. He asked Ma to pay him $1,575 to repair the broken fence and to build a new one to prevent her tenants from trespassing on his property.
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He also said the garbage was strewn across Ma’s yard for “many days” and that crows brought the trash to his yard and onto his roof.
While Ma admitted her garbage bins were unlocked, she contended the bear was attracted to a blueberry plant in Xue’s backyard and that Xue’s barking dog startled the bear and caused it to break two panels in the fence.
Tribunal member Sarah Orr was not persuaded by the blueberry plant argument.
“I find it more likely than not that the plant would not have been bearing fruit in November,” Orr wrote.
Orr also noted that Port Coquitlam bylaws require solid waste bins stored outside to be locked, except on collection day.
“Ma was undisputedly in breach of this bylaw,” Orr wrote.
However, Xue failed to prove Ma’s breach led him to incur damages, according to Orr.
There was also no evidence showing the precise location of the fence relative to the two properties.
“At no point in his submissions does Mr. Xue claim the fence is on his property,” Orr wrote. “On balance, I find it is more likely than not that the fence is on Ms. Ma’s property. So, I find Mr. Xue is not responsible for the cost of repairing it.”
Can I get a witness?
Ma does not live on the property and didn’t witness the incident with the bear. Orr wrote that it was “unclear” if Xue witnessed the incident.
Neither Ma nor Xue submitted statements from anyone who claimed to have witnessed the event.
“Both parties submitted photos of the damaged fence, although I find they are unhelpful in determining which yard the bear entered first, or how it broke through the fence,” Orr wrote.
While Xue said he wasn’t satisfied with the repairs to the fence, he failed to prove that he suffered damages, according to Orr.
Orr dismissed Xue’s claim.
As the successful party, Ma claimed $1,200 in dispute-related expenses including flights, hotel accommodation, and ground transportation for her and her husband’s travel between San Francisco and Vancouver in March 2023.
Orr dismissed the claim, noting there was no explanation for her husband’s involvement or for the need to travel to Vancouver.
“The [Civil Resolution Tribunal] is an online tribunal and conducts its dispute resolution process remotely,” Orr wrote. “I find Ms. Ma has failed to show that her travel expenses were reasonable in the circumstances.”